Amsterdam is hot. In 2015, 17 million people visited the Dutch capital. Visitors stay here longer and come back more often. Look at TripAdvisor and you’ll find 364 hotels in the city. So, how do you stand out from the crowd as a hotel? We asked Jolanda Sadni Ziane. After 28 years of international wanderings – from Mauritius to Morocco and from France to Mexico – she has been the General Manager of INK Hotel Amsterdam MGallery by Sofitel since 2016, back in her homeland of the Netherlands.
V: Where does the name ‘INK Hotel’ come from?
The name derives from the building’s colourful history. Once upon a time, it was home to the De Tijd newspaper and printing works. This is where stories were thought up and written down – and that is still the case today. It’s an idea that’s not only in the name, but also in the design: everything revolves around the notion of ‘time’. You’ll find old typesetting machines and printing presses everywhere. Our restaurant is even called the Pressroom… And the wallpaper in the corridors features pages from the first newspaper published back in 1904. These days, we invite our guests to write their own story. As you can read on the wall: ‘Where stories are yet to be written’.
V: You hear lots of different languages in the lobby. Where do your guests come from?
It’s a real melting pot here. Most of our guests are British, American and French. But the international feeling doesn’t just come from our guests. Our team is international, too: we have 19 nationalities working here. People from Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Sweden, Poland, Portugal, Morocco and so on. Our melting pot is a reflection of the city of Amsterdam. Which is really appreciated by our guests. For example, if someone who doesn’t speak very good English arrives, we go and find someone who can help them in their own language. Even if it’s just to give them directions, people really enjoy being assisted in such a personal way.
V: What does a typical day in the hotel look like for you?
That’s impossible to answer, because there is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ here. Ours is a people business, so you constantly have to keep thinking one step ahead. It’s all about the guests. That’s why I try to have as few meetings as possible and don’t even work in my own office. I tend to sit in the lobby or restaurant with my laptop. That way I can keep an eye on what’s going on and jump in to lend a hand where necessary. I am very approachable if someone has a question. I think it’s important to stay close to the team.
V: How important is teamwork for you?
It’s the most important thing of all. No team, no hotel. They bring the story, the hotel, to life, creating that ‘at-home’ feeling. Just try clapping with one hand. We need each other to create Memorable Moments for our guests. If the team is running well, the guests can sense it. That’s why we hire people more for their personality than for their skills. We have a staff of around 65, plus ten or so trainees. I think these trainees are terribly important: after all, they’re the future of our business. It takes up a lot of your time, but you also get a lot back. If you ask me what I’m most proud of, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment: it’s our people!