Industry Update
Opinion Article30 May 2016

Zoku’s Category Hotel Opens in Amsterdam

By Phil Butler, Analyst and Editor in Chief at Argophilia Travel News

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This week a new kind of hotel experience debuted in Amsterdam. The opening of the very first Zoku concept represents a real turning point, one where trend becomes design, and design becomes the hype. For years hotel strategies have skirted the evolution mobile, tech, and a stoked Millennial Generation. Now Zoku makes a first-of-a-kind concept hotel, one where business dissolves into pleasure. We talk a lot about the space where high tech trends intersected with guest experience and progress, but this hotel seems designed to create, rather than to prognosticate.

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Zoku is Japanese for "family", and according to the creators of the new hotel synergy, it's a hybrid just in the nic-of-time. The evolution of business, the high octane, no-time-to-waste world has spurred a new work meets play lifestyle in every sector of business. Naturally, time crunching our lives has changed everything. And the need for business travelers to have a home-office away from home arose. Before Zoku, hotels only "bandaged" this hole hospitality. So, based on what we saw at Zoku's grand opening, a totally new category promises a cure instead of a bandaid. Zoku provides the services of an office, in an atmosphere where social buzz permeates.

Aimed at true hotel industry disruption, Zoku visionaries, co-founders Marc Jongerius and Hans Meyer collaborated with the concrete concept geniuses, to create something truly stunning, and really logical too. Zoku seems intent on creating more than a building with nice beds and smiling faces. Meyer gives us clues as to the depth of design thought that went into creating this new class:

" Zoku reflects Amsterdam's modern values of diversity, entrepreneurship and creativity . Our objective is for Zoku to connect thinkers from various industries, and facilitate the emergence of a new hub where talented international travelers mingle with locals. "

The allusion is transparent here; Zoku melds geography, design, the architecture of business, and lifestyle into a sort of "summit magnet", a place not just to serve guests, but to cultivate socializing, and potentially the synthesis of ideas too. Inside the hotel contemporary design has been sculpted for beauty and utility, services like health and beauty are boosted by local wellness partners, and extended stay amenities are accentuated with connectedness features. Social spaces, Zoku's Sidekicks and Community Manager's efforts, and a new concept called "Better Together" really do show Zoku's differentiation. Better Together is a new kind of meeting space that helps promote openness and collaborative business-style.

The further convergence of technology onto the collaborative design of Zoku, reveals the visionaries teaming up with StayNTouch, to more perfectly connect guests to hotel staff. The Bethesda, Maryland innovators of cloud-based hotel PMS, leads the way in solving one of the industry's biggest problems. Guests of Zoku can tailor their experience via a touch of their mobile, and the hotel can streamline operations and efficiency as well. Jos Schaap, StayNTouch founder and CEO elaborated on how Zoku leapfrogs forward with this integration:

"This innovative property is a model for what a forward-looking hotel can be, offering full choice of service (without a front desk) for guests, the opportunity for full check in and out via mobile phone with 100% integration of mobile door lock technology, social engagement and digital promotions, and complete back of the house implementation of tablet-based communication for management and housekeeping - all provided via one simple cloud solution. The ultimate result is higher guest engagement and superior guest service - and we are pleased to help them drive it."

Other similarly progressive elements have gone into the planning of this first-in-a-class hospitality property. One innovation I was curious about at first, is the way Zoku Lofts are designed. The refocus on a living-centric space, versus a sleep-centric model disturbed me initially. Then the simple genius sunk in. Zoku exists the way we live and breathe. I recall my experiences in Paris boutiques, and the big-as-a-house beds that occupy the whole space. Puffy as they are, Paris hoteliers are "shooing" their guests out into the streets. Zoku rooms are not bedrooms, they are economical apartments without the upkeep and cost, situated inside a social sphere. At least this is one way of expressing what my first impressions are.

The long and short of this new Zoku concept is, a new category of stay for business nomads has been created. And from what we've seen, Zoku's team has elevated the bar. They've created the benchmark for this "nomad" class of hotel. The founders tell us this first Zoku is the prototype. Logically located on Amsterdam's Weesperstaat, the home-office away is right next door to an international co-working spadce called WeWork. Smack in the middle of the so-called "Knowledge Mile" commercial buzz center of the city, Zoku clearly turned over every stone forging this new class of hospitality.

Zoku's PR people tell us the brand is set to roll out in London, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna and Paris next.

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Phil Butler

Phil Butler is a publisher, editor, and analyst who's also a partner at the travel PR firm, Pamil Visions. A widely cited expert on technology startups, digital marketing and PR, and Eastern Europe, he's contributed to media such as The Epoch Times, The Huffington Post, NEO, Travel Daily News, The Prague Post, Pravda, and many others worldwide.

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