How hospitality design can truly elevate the experience of visitors

Case study: Tropen Hotel | Restaurant

The Amsterdam Tropen Hotel is located in the vicinity of The Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT), an office building that was also redesigned by AKKA . Originally dedicated to host KIT volunteers and students, it was upgraded in the seventies to a hotel open for guests of KIT. Nowadays the hotel is a public hotel, ready to welcome anyone visiting the city for work, study or pleasure. Since the hotel is part of the KIT family, it is equally focused on sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals1 including a high level of corporate social responsibility.

AKKA was commissioned to redesign the lobby lounge and the breakfast area, in an attempt to attract people to use those spaces. The space had great potential due to the beautiful window on the park next door but the old layout and style of the furniture did not make it suitable for the reception of a high number of people belonging to different categories (tourists, KIT employees, and businessmen). In fact, the old design was so detrimental that very few guests used the breakfast area or the lounge, preferring not to spend time in those spaces. 

AKKA’s aim was to transform the spaces into welcoming, nurturing spaces that would invite and embrace people to spend time in them. Our goal was for hotel guests as well as KIT employees and people around the area to want to use the lounge and breakfast area for breakfast and lunch and other social encounters. This will result in a better overall experience for hotel guests and of course more revenue for the hotel. 

AKKA’s redesign of the spaces resulted in a measured 150% increase in the number of people using the breakfast area, while at the same time no increase was observed in the number of hotel guests. Furthermore, people who used the area, reported feeling like the area was more welcoming and even less busy and crowded than it used to feel. This is the power of a high quality design that is focused on people’s interactions: an increase in users and a simultaneous feeling of less crowded and more flow in the space!

Starting our AKKA process by observing and studying the existing flows and interviewing people, we then conceived of a design that aimed at creating flowing, nurturing flows, from how people would enter the space and sign up at the breakfast, to the intuitive order in which they would get their coffee, juice, croissants and toast. Our in depth desk and empirical research, guided us in designing new flawless flows that would be optimum in this kind of space, and in turn allowed us to design furniture layouts including the tables, chairs, and counters in such a way that would create a much smoother means of circulation. Our team of architects, interior designers and contractors, dove into every detail, down to the location and angle of the coffee machines. The look and feel of the entire space was designed with an equal level of intention and detail. We had to custom-design the counters presenting all the food and beverages. The industrial-style food counters we custom-designed for this space, were also integrated with the selection of the new flooring. The dark wood was selected to help the space maximise the benefits of the natural light and scenic views and use them to their full advantage. It helped bring the feel of nature inside, helping create a relaxing nurturing and comfortable environment for guests.

Considering the history of the building, we aimed at preserving and even honouring the memories and history of the hotel by what we call “renovation in conversation” where we create an exchange between the old and new by introducing new, fresh colours and furniture that are ‘in conversation’ with the old aspects and spirit of the building. This renovation vision created an overall more attractive entrance to the hotel, positively impacting the way in which people see it. The renovated space in the hotel now fosters much more positive feelings than it previously did.This is according to the interviews and observations we did after the renovations were completed, in our adapting phase, at the end of our process.

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