In just 10 years, citizenM has grown from a single Schiphol Airport hotel to 30 hotels with 7,000 rooms open or currently under development across three continents including Europe, the US and Asia.
Delivering a new take on hospitality, which they call ‘Affordable Luxury’, citizenM has fast carved out a place for itself amongst the most innovative hotel brands in the world.
Michael Easton is the new general manager for citizenM Schiphol. Originally from Scotland and with a wealth of experience having worked at the three citizenM hotels in London, Michael took the reins at the Amsterdam airport hotel in September 2019.
We caught up with him to find out how he was settling into the new property, what makes it unique as a guest experience and how he manages a hotel that sells out every single night.
Schiphol is where the citizenM brand was born. What’s it like managing the company’s flagship hotel?
Michael Easton: Yes, it's the original citizenM, so I think it's close to many people's hearts and I can feel that. It's just as big a challenge to come to an older hotel, but the team here is really great. It's a super busy hotel and it's fast-paced being next to such a big airport. I am also close to the support office, which is here in the Netherlands, so I get to also build more relationships with these people.
Schiphol is one of the busiest airports in the world. What unique challenges does that put on the hotel?
Michael Easton: This is a fast-paced hotel for sure. We have 200 departures and 200 arrivals every day. Here, we meet 200 new people each day. So it's also a chance to get to know new guests constantly. So many times in London, as I was checking people in, I'd ask them, "How did you find out about citizenM?" They always said it was because they stayed in Schiphol. It may have been by accident, but that's then how they'd remember us and then want to come back the next time. For us to be able to connect with so many different people each day is really enjoyable and really fun.
The crazy thing about Schiphol is that we can have 100 rooms to sell at 10 p.m., but then we refresh the screen and 10 minutes later we're fully booked because a flight has been delayed and people are queuing up, looking for rooms. That's quite a chaotic time. Families are panicking and I then they come in to our hotel with it's relaxed environment and we are able to make them feel immediately better. We can get them a drink and do look after them properly. So many of our guests are quite surprised about being able to check in, and on their own, really fast, when they've been queuing all day. The last thing that they want to do is queue when they get to the hotel. They want to get up to their room without any fuss. And the beauty is, they can here.
How do you manage that demand?
Michael Easton: You have to expect the unexpected in hotels, but especially at an airport hotel. You can't get too comfortable!
We do have times that KLM might phone us, or Schiphol Airport will call and say that this has happened with a flight and we want to book 100 rooms. But most of the time people will book directly, quickly on the phone; whoever is fast enough to get the last rooms. It can really go within a couple of minutes, which is fun! We have to make sure that all of our rooms are cleaned every night.
We expect to be fully booked every night. It's intense, but that's good.
It’s such a high guest turnover, do you have a guest demographic or not?
Michael Easton: No, it's such a mixed thing. But we do have quite a big mix of our loyal guests that come back time and time again. It's actually taken me a little bit by surprise, the amount of faces that we recognize and that the team recognize by name, especially solo travellers on business. We have people who book the hotel randomly, because they need a place at the airport. The airport hotel is one you can forget sometimes. We're at the start or end of the trip. But here, it also feels like a destination and we add value to their trip being in citizenM.
Can you explain ‘affordable luxury’?
Michael Easton: Each person can have a different perception of value, depending on who you are and your lifestyle. As a brand, we can fit most of your needs and more, depending on what you want. Maybe a great cappuccino in the morning is affordable luxury to you or having free WiFi or having somebody that actually treats you like a human and not like a robot when they welcome you here. In a world that's so connected and busy, I think coming in here and being able to check in so fast is affordable luxury.
Citizen M was one of the first hotel brands to truly offer self-service check-in. How does that work and what value does that bring to the guest?
Michael Easton: We don't want to over-direct how the guests should experience citizenM. I think it depends on who they are and the day they've had. We want our guests to make citizenM what they want it to be. They can check in really fast and get to the room without too much hassle.
I've been on a long flight; getting into Schiphol and just being able to just relax and feel like you're in citizenM is really nice. You see people here every single day walking in like they own the place. That's how they should feel.
As the company grows how is the culture changing?
Michael Easton: The culture that we have here is important and it makes us who we are. I think now, as the company progresses and continues to be transformational, and we open more and more hotels in new countries, the mission is to keep that culture alive by doing what we do best.