Christoph Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer, 25hours hotel Company
Chief Executive Officer Christoph Hoffman talks to SPACE’s Can Faik about the further development and expansion of the 25hours hotel group and its brand…
25hours Hotels is a young and dynamic hotel brand that builds on the traditional hospitality industry, but seeks new ways to meet the needs of the urban, cosmopolitan, culture-conscious and brand-conscious traveller. They develop custom, bespoke hotels with personality in exciting locations. Their concepts are based on dynamics, surprise and a dose of adventure.
What was your background in hospitality prior to working for 25hours Hotels?
I started my career in tourism at a German tour operator and a New York-based incentive and incoming agency. I then studied academic disciplines in the fields of sales and marketing and strategic management at the Glion Institute (École Hotelière et de Tourisme Leysin) in Switzerland and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I gained my first experiences in the hotel industry at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem and the Box Tree Hotel in New York, and held managerial positions at New World Travel Inc. in New York as well as at Kempinski hotels, the Bürgenstock Hotels & Resorts in Switzerland and in the small but high-end Hotel Louis C. Jacob in Hamburg. In 2005, my partners Stephan Gerhard, Ardi Goldman, Kai Hollmann and I founded the 25hours Hotel Company.
What is your position within 25hours Hotels?
CEO and Member of the Board. I am overseeing the development and expansion of the 25hours Hotel Company and I try to add a touch of ‘soul’ wherever possible.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Seeing new places, getting to know new cultures, meeting inspiring people, creating new hotels with passion and love for the extraordinary.
What are the complexities of meeting the demands of shareholders, fulfilling the growth of your management team and delivering the brand’s values to the guests?
Well that obviously feels a bit like juggling and trying to keep all balls up in the air… But I am very lucky: I work on both sides with highly professional and creative people that have become friends of mine. Trust probably is the most important part of our successful relationship amongst management and shareholders. We put tremendous effort into creating every hotel from scratch, by defining a matching story for its respective location and transferring it into a unique concept. We hope that our efforts are well received and appreciated by our audience. By doing what we do with love and passion we hope that our brand’s values are penetrating peoples’ consciousness and slowly sinking in. Actually, we are convinced they do… and Accor having invested in our brand is the best proof of our success.
What are 25hours Hotels unique selling points?
Every hotel is truly unique and tells a different story. These stories are developed within our team (we have a so-called ‘Extra Hour Lab’ for this specific reason) and are then introduced to a selected team of designers who develop the interior design in line with us. We not only provide rooms, we aim to provide inspiring public space, bars and restaurants with a good atmosphere and fun, where people like to spend time. Our role models are those real legendary hotels which naturally tell stories. A Raffles Hotel in Singapore or a Badrutts Palace in St. Moritz, a Chelsea Hotel in New York to name a few. Yet we try not to be too serious about it. A twinkle in the eye is always part of it.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
To stay content, I believe you have to keep a sound balance between aiming for perfection and yet being relaxed about certain things. There is no such thing as a perfect experience as long as human beings are involved. But if you are able to cultivate imperfection, you may be able to create a warm, authentic and humane experience. Success on the other hand, as everyone knows, is a very fragile condition. Success lies not in oneself, it lies in the overall result.
What other exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
We will open hotels in Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Paris this year. Projects in Florence and Dubai are currently under construction. Furthermore, we are targeting destinations such as London, Miami, L.A, Sao Paulo and Melbourne.
How do hotel trends differ – if at all – between hotels in Europe, Asia and the US?
In Europe you can still find a few more products with an individual approach – although with less consistency – since there are more independent operators/owners in the market. Asia and the USA are much more dominated by large hotel chains. Apart from that, in Asia and the USA management contracts form the classic relationship between operator and owner. Both aspects – chain domination and management contracts – can make it more difficult sometimes to create a hotel with a lot of individuality and a profile. On the other hand, in Asia and in the US hotels tend to be frequented by locals more. Hotel bars and restaurants are often the place to be for the local community. This trend is slowly emerging in European cities too and it creates a lot of opportunities for hoteliers.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
No hotelier or developer nowadays wakes up and says: ‘Oh, let’s design a boring hotel!’ Everyone is trying to differentiate oneself when it comes to design. Hoteliers however understand more and more that good design is no more than a basic duty. Far more it is the concept and the content by which you can make a true difference and create a great product.
How important do you feel hotel design has become when launching a new hotel?
Let’s put it this way: a sound relationship between the interior designer and the hotelier is, at least for us at 25hours, key to a solid product. We don’t want to let the interior design company design a hotel for us. Rather we wish to play mental ‘ping pong’ with the designers. While we do that, our role as hoteliers should be to bring in the concept, the content, sometimes the ‘story’, and, last but not least, the soul and spirit of a hotel.
What would be your dream hotel project?
A hotel just for me, my family and friends with a wonderful down-to-earth ‘mama’ or ‘papa’ in the kitchen, chauffeur service with a 2CV and certainly a great wine cellar and a lot of space for everyone who is visiting. The sea should not be too far away, likewise the mountains. I guess we finally have to create Peter Mayle’s ‘Hotel Pastis’ somewhere in the South of France.
What currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
As I don’t like to fly, I will focus this year a bit more on Europe. Our projects in Florence and Paris luckily will allow me to spend some time in Italy and France this year. Always top of my list is Switzerland where I will have a little chalet in the mountains by the end of this year.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
I try to keep up a good work-life balance by the freedom of organising my agenda in a way that allows me to combine business with pleasure. And when I take a couple of days off, I mostly head for mountains. I love to ski and to hike. Being in the nature ‘grounds’ me and ensures that I stay humble and sane. My daughter has just started her own path into the hotel business as an apprentice and my wife also has a hospitality background; so, luckily, she has not only an understanding but also a lot of comprehension for the industry and for me being a workaholic…