Gare du Nord, Paris’s northern train station, sees more traffic than any other station in Europe—it’s even the third busiest in the world. The spectacular facade makes it stand out as well. And starting sometime in the near future, guests of the successful 25hours hotel group will be gazing out upon that very facade from their windows. “Paris is probably the most ambitious project we’re doing this year,” Christoph Hoffmann says. “It will open the door to a new era, because all of our other locations are in German-speaking locations.” His voice is joyful when he says it, which is hardly a surprise, considering that the new 25hours Hotel Terminus Nord is going up in what he says is his favorite city on Earth. But the creative mind behind this extravagant hotel knows that this means venturing into uncharted territory, far from the safety and familiarity of the German-speaking world. “Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the Grande Dame — she hasn’t exactly been holding her breath praying to get a 25hours,” Hoffmann says reverently, but not in a way that suggests he’s intimidated.
Why should he be? The company’s going about it as they always do, developing the story behind the city, the neighborhood, and the property… though the storytelling aspect was particularly important this time around. “We’re moving into a very old property that’s been a hotel for decades,” the CEO explains. “The rooms are quite small, so we’ve got to compensate with a lot of originality and charm.” They’re doing it by drawing upon the history of Paris in the 1920’s, taking people back to the days of the sapeurs, a dandy movement among Paris’s Congolese immigrants. The hotel will again feature NENI, Haya Molcho’s chain of restaurants, and will ultimately have 235 rooms. “We’re opening in two stages. The first 120 rooms will be available in October, the rest in Spring 2019.” The Paris project is different in another way, too: “This is also our first management contract — all of our previous projects have been lease agreements. Our relationship to the owners will play a different role this time around. We have to present our brand differently.” Hoffmann also notes that he’ll be moving to the City of Love for a couple of months this fall, albeit for entirely unromantic reasons: “To make sure we’re doing everything right with the hotel.”
Something old, something new
Paris is just the first step on 25hours’ journey beyond the German-speaking market. Locations in Dubai and Florence are scheduled to open in two years, so both projects are in full swing. “This is the phase where we’re making all the most important decisions, the ones that determine whether they’ll end up being good hotels or not.” As a result, it’s one of the most intense periods of work for Hoffmann himself. “I just spent a week in Greece, visiting two different Greek islands each day to finalize one of the gastronomic concepts for our Dubai location.” The hotel in the Emirates will have a Greek tavern on the roof, for which he plans to establish a liaison relationship similar to the one the group currently has with Haya Molcho.
They also plan to expand to São Paulo and Melbourne in the more distant future, and hope to expand to London and Copenhagen soon as well. And then there are other projects “that come in between,” as Hoffmann describes it — projects, that is, in locations where 25hours already has hotels. “Cities like Zurich, Vienna, Hamburg, or Berlin, where we began. Places we feel comfortable, places that have influenced us and become part of our DNA.” Going back to their roots, in other words.
Expansions as far as the eye can see
The 25hours hotel group workshop is really hopping these days. Just recently, they opened locations in Düsseldorf and Cologne at almost exactly the same time. They not only expanded their Frankfurt hotel (one of their very first locations), but also gave it a whole new story following the departure of the Levi Strauss brand. The group’s collaboration with Accor, which began eighteen months ago when Accor acquired a 30% stake in 25hours, is proving to be very exciting.
The hotel in Dubai is a collaborative effort between the two companies, and more joint efforts are in the works. “We’re working together to research how we can channel Accor’s global orientation in a way that makes sense for us,” says Hoffmann. Accor’s own pipeline is big enough that they can work on ten or twenty hotels at the same time, but 25hours sees things a little differently. “We’re hitting the brakes right now,” Hoffmann says, “because we want to make sure that the hotels we create are at least as unique as the ones we’ve done in the past.” When you’re scattered across so many locations, countries, or even continents, though, aren’t you a little in danger of losing sight of yourself anyway? The company talks about that problem quite often and works hard to combat it, as the CEO tells us. “We have a small core group within our management team, people that understand 25hours’ DNA better than anyone. Two of them are always involved in each project alongside the project manager, to make sure that every project we do has 25hours written all over it.” A year and a half ago, they also started the “extra hour lab,” a laboratory made up of a handful of creative types who help develop unique themes for their hotels in far-off places. “We see the lab as sort of a sparring partner for the on-site designers,” says Hoffmann, who is part of the lab himself.
In short: 25hours Hotels aren’t in danger of becoming cookie-cutter places anytime soon. “We don’t see ourselves as a growth machine going full speed all the time,” he says. “More like a company that wants to continue expanding with care in the future.”