“Just make sure you offer more value as a hotel than Airbnb”

Posted on November 12, 2013 by Karolien van der Ouderaa

On our first Village Capital weekend our cohort had a conversation with Hans Meyer, partner at Hotels Ahead –“Even though your enterprise is growing up, make sure the heart is still in the company”, Hans Meyer.


It’s getting real!
Getting to know our participating enterprises and the 12 impact entrepreneurs. Learning about their passions. Exciting… we really started the VilCap NL program!

Then, Saturday just after lunch we welcome Hans Meyer. Hans is a partner at Hotels Ahead. They are the initial creator of the citizenM hotel concept. Hans was responsible for the citizenM concept and design. He takes us on a deep dive into his way of developing, designing, selling a game-changing concept.

Transforming guest needs into a mythical concept

Hans is passionate about the hotel industry. But this industry also gives him a lot to question. ‘Why have these expensive hotels all kind of complimentary stuff nobody uses? And on the other hand: Why can’t these cheap hotels serve the comfort and sensory experience their guests are seeking? Hans wanted to challenge this status quo. First he went looking for inspiration. Exploring other markets and industries (for example Easyjet and fashion brands like Zara and H&M), talking to stakeholders in the hotel industry and listening to his future guests.

While talking these his future quests he used a different angle in questioning. He did not ask what they would like to see in a new concept. He asked future customers about their current frustrations, their best experiences. As well exploring what was behind these answers. By doing this, Hans learned about his future customer needs. His next step? He started thinking: How do I want my hotels guests to see and experience the concept? This is how the contours of a revolutionary concept developed: an affordable luxury hotel for the sophisticated travellers.

Make your concept a real business model
Once Hans completed these first steps, he started to draw his customer journey. On a big white sheet of paper he drew all the contact moments he would have with his guests. At every moment he asked himself “how can this be affordable, quick and at the same time come with high service and high quality? A storyteller transformed his sheet of paper into a story. To finish this phase he asked someone to visualize the story.

How to sell this concept? Hans explains: “Just keep it rational”. Sell it to investors from facts and figures. Create a business model and gather testimonials from future clients. Keep on testing and challenge yourself if you have to improve. Always seek for more… The rest is history. The concept is a huge success expanding to NYC, Paris and over 50 hotels in Asia upcoming years.

It’s not about failure, but what you to after it
How to proceed? This concept is a total success! This was a big challenge for Hans. He told himself, just go for it. Let’s try and not freak out! That’s what he is doing now within his new project Zoku (working title).