The HAMA Europe Asset Management Achievement Awards, in partnership with IHIF and HAMA Europe, provide an opportunity to formally recognise results of successful asset management strategies accomplished by the winning companies across three categories; Single Asset Strategy, Portfolio Strategy and Sustainability Strategy. We sat down with Marco Lemmers, CEO, Conscious Hotels, to discuss their achievement as winners of the Sustainability Strategy Award, sponsored by HotStats.
1. Describe your project/property. Conscious Hotel Westerpark
In 2018 the first 100% electric hotel in the Netherlands - Conscious Hotel Westerpark - opened its doors in a monumental building, the former headquarters of a gas factory.
After a transformation of eighteen months, the national monument building (now Conscious Hotel Westerpark) offers space for eighty-nine hotel rooms, a lobby café and an organic restaurant. The hotel is 100% electric and it is the first hotel that runs entirely on Dutch wind energy, it’s connected to a windmill located in the Amsterdam Harbour. The energy efficiency of the building is the result of solid thermal insulation and an Aquafier Thermal Energy Storage, enabling the hotel to store and exchange energy between summer and winter seasons. The FF&E is a combination of reused old stuff (the best for the planet!), C2C and certified natural materials. We even developed a vertical public aquaponics system in our interior where water from plants feeds fish in a tank that feeds the plants that feed the fish….kind of a symbiotic urban farming system. All our food and beverages, even the liquor are 100% biological and we almost succeeded in having 25 mile sourcing principle, was it not for our guilty pleasure coffee, fairtrade and bio that is. We speak with our guests with a quirky tone of voice and will inspire guests to make conscious choices without taking the sexy out of eco.
2. What made the project so successful / why did it win the award?
Conscious Hotels offers an original and unique combination. An attractive blend of sexy and modern hotel interiors, sustainable green enterprises, healthy choices for guest wellbeing and a warm, humorous approach. That’s a lot of words so, in case we forget, we reduced them to one simple memorable slogan: “Eco-Sexy. Big Smiles.”
Conscious Hotels is the most sustainable hotel chain in Europe. We have the broadest scope and go beyond sustainable buildings & installations. Our scope is on energy, materials, ecology and people. We apply a Life Cycle Assessment approach on sustainability, which means we are super kind to the planet and go well beyond climate change reduction goals. Our sustainable approach includes goals to reduce land use, minimizing the impact of biodiversity and banning toxic and persistent materials from our hotels. We even take good care of the people living on it. We are proud of our mentally challenged colleagues and invest in hospitality traineeships. We are a good neighbour and plant trees by donating a profit share to the Conscious Foundation eWith Conscious Hotel Westerpark we have transformed a former historical gas factory into a 100% electric eco-sexy hotel that was even highlighted in the Time Magazine as the greatest place in the world, how great is that? I know it’s a lot, but we think it’s a good story. See what you think.
3. How has the COVID crisis affected the property and the way it’s been managed?
It’s been ouch. And as we are an urban concept based in Amsterdam it has been hard times with super low occupancy and pricing. No we did not stop buying biological food and drinks. Sustainability is a belief and in our DNA. We had to let staff go. That is painful especially for Conscious as we have a strong team bond and have battled, succeeded and laughed together. The property needs love and care and doing maintenance is actually easier with lower occupancy levels. Refurbishment is less costly as it does not impact revenue as much. And yes the property is ultra energy efficient when business is slow. Bad for the business but good for the planet.
4. How do you expect the role of the asset manager to change in the future?
In the short term asset managers have their hands full in helping hotel businesses recover from Covid. Will the targeted guests come back and is the operational hotel concept future proof (think sustainability)? Is the business lean enough to recover from Covid losses and is the right technical infrastructure in place to support this? It makes their work really challenging and from a more positive side their work will be diverse and more ops involved and aimed at innovation... and did I mention sustainability?
5. What do you see as the major trends in hospitality real estate post-pandemic?
Of course eco-sexy, duh. But we also believe a lean and clean operation is important. The power of the OTA’s is also changing. And travelling, especially flying is becoming a luxury service again. Will the guests come back in the same numbers? Yes they will, more leisure than business. We are curious social beings that want to explore and connect. We might have to wait until 2024/2025 but then most hotels will be back at 2019 level performance.