Founded in Amsterdam in 2011, Mermaid collection describes itself as an assemblage of creative hotel brands located in Europe’s most inspiring neighborhoods. Having grown to include six design-focused boutique properties in cities including Berlin, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Barcelona and, most recently, Ibiza, Group CEO Bram Van Der Hoek talks about the current portfolio and on the horizon .
How did you start your Sircle journey and what attracts you to a project? I started as an intern at Park Hotel Amsterdam in the early 1990s. I worked in operations and spent 11 years working my way up through various hotel groups, eventually landing as General Manager of Park Centraal (formerly Park Hotel) in Amsterdam. I spent a decade in general manager and regional manager roles before becoming CEO of Sircle Collection, alongside owner Liran Wizman.
We are independent and this allows us to create truly magical offers. We all like to work from scratch when it comes to new projects or new brands. Various things attract us to a project, but it is usually a city, a neighborhood or even an interesting building. We take advantage of the history, the design, the surrounding culture and of course the energy of the people to bring a project to life.
What does modern luxury look like? Modern luxury has been talked about for a long time and I think it is constantly evolving. But at its core, it’s about giving space and room to connect with something bigger than ourselves. Of course, this means offering unique services and maintaining quality products and above all: taking care of the smallest and most intuitive details. However, the way people really experience this modern luxury is through the team. You can be in the fanciest hotel and not feel the warmth of the team working there. So we constantly ask ourselves, how can we stay authentic in a digital world and truly connect with our customers and their needs?
How do you balance creating something that is both timeless and cutting-edge at the same time? We try to avoid locking ourselves into terminology. Of course, the goal is to always be timeless, but sometimes you need (or want!) to be more fashion-forward. It really depends on the project and once it’s open, the hard part begins: how do you keep it interesting over time?
Community and location seem to me to be an integral part of what you do – how do you find your sites and what makes a location suitable for Sircle Collection? We are always drawn to local characteristics like the history of a destination and the architecture and history of buildings. We ask questions like what motivates the local community? What is our purpose here and why should this project exist? And of course, what excites us?
What are the top three things you’ve learned in your decade running Sircle Collection? Concentration is the number one priority. It’s so easy to get distracted and lose sight of the North Star. I constantly try to see the bigger picture and learn from my team. Also, I operate on the strengths of the team instead of trying to get people to focus on improving their weaknesses.
Give me an example (or two) of a one-of-a-kind hotel experience? There are so many choices ! We have a wonderful program called Sir Explore where we connect guests with brand friends. They are not tour guides but just interesting friends who can show a really local side of the city. My favorite is Jackson, who is an Amsterdam nightlife legend who can show you all of the coolest neighborhoods in Amsterdam and tell you hilarious stories as you walk around.
The second simply shows you the personal touch that our team offers to our customers. Recently I was at one of the hotels and a colleague was checking in a family with a young child, probably three years old. By the time he had finished handing over the key card, he had the young son sitting on his shoulders as he accompanied the family to their room. It was magical to see how foreign these guests were just minutes earlier.
What are some of the technological innovations that are helping you and your business over the past two years and into the future? Being authentic, surprising and sincere is always our main goal for all our brands. We’re reshaping the guest travel experience that includes online check-in and check-out, keyless entry into our hotel rooms, and industry-leading guest communications that allow more time for personalized interactions with our guests during their holiday.
What trends have you noticed in hotel design? It’s about being more fluid and flexible. Lockdowns have forced us to take a very careful look at our spaces and ask tough questions. The result was something magical. For example, we redesigned our meeting and event spaces at Sir Victor in Barcelona and assigned those spaces to our Members Club which opened last year. Now, the modular spaces are filled with local entrepreneurs and innovators looking to work, connect, and participate in educational, entertainment, and wellness programs.