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CEO Interview: 25hours Hotels' Christoph Hoffmann on his brand's Dubai debut and more.

When I meet Christoph Hoffmann, the CEO of 25hours, I am immediately put at ease - which is what the brand itself tries to do with its guests. The concept is all about individuality, authenticity and character, and designs each of its hotels together with various designers and in different styles under the motto: 'you know one, you know none'.

Hoffmann tells me passionately: "I was always working in hospitality and I fell in love with hotels. I always wanted to work in hotels with a lot of profile, passion, and soul. I mostly worked in luxury hotels and I wanted to become an entrepreneur at one point. These three pillars are important for what happened afterwards because at some point, I wanted to do my own thing."

His "own thing" ended up being collaborating with his shareholding partners (Stephan Gerhard, Ardi Goldman, and Kai Hollmann), one of whom (Hollmann) had created the first 25hours Hotel in Hamburg a year prior to their partnership.

Hoffmann says: "It was about not being too serious about yourself. It was about design and experience, and it was about value for money. We didn't want to become a luxury product but we wanted to offer something that could compare the best with the traditional grand old madames of luxury hospitality: hotels which tell the story naturally."


The journey started from there, and Hoffmann proudly tells me that every hotel the team did became a "huge success". "Slowly but surely we realised, it's about 'you know one, you know none'. It became a claim of ours to say if we make hotels, we don't want to repeat ourselves. We went in the extreme opposite [direction], instead of standardising, instead of giving guests the feeling of being in the same place everywhere they go. We wanted to create a whole different world each time. That was one of our first early ideas," he says.

The second brand value, Hoffmann says, is all about storytelling. "Before we do anything with any hotel, we want to make sure that we have a great story behind it. Sometimes a story wasn't as great as other stories - but we had beautiful stories which helped us give a hotel a character, a soul, an ideology."

It's this individuality and passion for telling a story that led the company to get noticed. The 25hours Hotel Company was founded in 2005, and in November 2016, AccorHotels acquired a 30% stake in its capital. Despite the acquisition, 25hours Hotels was continued to be run by Hoffmann and his management team.

He jokes: "So far, it has been beneficial because we got a little bit of money." Then, he adds: "You have to ask me again whether this deal has been beneficial 10 years from now. We made the deal one-and-a-half years ago and so far I'm very happy about the relationship. Because for us it's not only about the business, it's all about the relationship."

Hoffmann points out that while many might think of AccorHotels as a veritable "monster of hospitality" with its 4,400+ hotels and multiple brands, he says the people makes the operator tick. "I have met so many people who have worked for Accor for a very long time. It's about people, it's about trust, it's about giving each other input and that's so important before I get to the financial or business side of the game," Hoffmann notes. He says later: "We were successful with 10 hotels in Europe but we realised if we want to move on like this, we need to partner up. We cannot do the same thing in far away destinations. The first question was, do we want to be adventurous and go to places like Dubai, Shanghai and Sao Paulo? The answer was yes. The second question was who do we find who can support us?" He states once he met Sebastien Bazin, the CEO of AccorHotels, he knew this was a partner he could rely on.

Moving on to talk shop, he admits that the partnership has meant giving 25hours the opportunity to look at a "big pipeline of potential projects worldwide". He concedes this puts the company under some pressure because it's not ready to scale up quickly. He adds: "We want to still be careful with the number of hotels we are doing. We have to balance out the opportunities we have all of a sudden with the aim of doing really individual hotels. We have a big opportunity but we are also facing the risk by growing too fast."

However, the Accor network has its benefits, and Hoffmann shares an example: "When we come to Dubai, our first out-of-Europe project, we can use a lot of resources to help us to launch. That was one of the major reasons why we did come together with Accor."

Right now, 25hours has 10 open properties, and is set to open the following hotels: 25hours Hotel Das Tour (Dusseldorf) in June 2018; 25hours Hotel The Circle (Cologne) in August 2018; 25hours Hotel Terminus Nord (Paris) in July/August 2018; 25hours Hotel Bahnhofsviertel (Frankfurt am Main) in August 2018; 25hours Hotel Firenze (Florence) in spring 2020; and 25hours Hotel Dubai also in spring 2020. So where is next? Hoffmann says wherever he goes has to "have a soul and a very special brand and lifestyle". He's open to a number of places including Cairo, Beirut or Marrakech. "We have a development remit together with Accor so we said we have certain cities which we agreed upon that we are going to look out for the next few years. 25Hours is still a big effort to do hotels because we are a very small team so we have to make sure that it makes sense financially. Also the chronology of doing hotels is very important."

He asserts the brand isn't one that would one day have "500 hotels in the world", and concludes: "We would rather individualise than standardise."

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Publication:Hotelier Middle East
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jun 14, 2018
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