Enhancing togetherness

Founded on the idea that a resort experience should bring guests together and foster friendly relationships between them, ARBOREA Hotels und Resorts opened its first location in the summer of 2018, declaring the goal to spread the concept across Europe in the next ten years

Johann Kerkhofs has worked in the hospitality industry long enough to learn a thing or two about what makes hotel guests enjoy themselves while on holiday. In fact, although the concept of ARBOREA Hotels und Resorts was officially set in motion in the autumn of 2014, its seeds were sown some 20 years earlier. In 1995, Johann was running a resort in Egypt, at the Red Sea, whose clientele consisted chiefly of couples. What was vexing him, however, was the fact that they would usually keep to themselves, instead of mingling with other people and engaging in group activities. “Every day, I would see those couples eating their breakfast quietly or lying by the pool reading a book without talking to others, which got me thinking that their holiday experience was not making them happier,” Johann remembers.

His solution seemed simple but brilliant. By joining many small tables into several bigger tables, he had people sharing a common space, which eventually encouraged them to start communicating with each other. “After four months, we saw an increase of revenue of about 34 per cent, because guests were getting together to take part in various activities such as playing water polo and this, in turn, led to an increased consumption on their part. This is how I came up with the concept that we have to create experiences that facilitate communication between guests,” Johann explains.

After years of sedulously testing and refining his ideas in other places, it was in September 2014 that his concept for ARBOREA finally saw the light of day. Packed with ‘communication platforms’ like an amphitheatre, a collaborative kitchen where guests can cook their own food and take cooking classes, as well as a little workshop that would allow them to try their hand in carpentry, the resort’s underlying notion was to create a pleasant atmosphere, enticing people to spend more time together.

“It also deserves to be mentioned that our resort has very strong environmental credentials, as we use a lot of recycled material throughout the hotel. For example, the carpets in the rooms are made entirely of recycled products, 20 per cent of which have come from old fishermen nets. It is a nice story to tell customers – one they will remember and that might inspire them to become more conscious of their own recycling habits. Furthermore, we have a rule to use as little paper as possible. We are now 95 per cent paper-free, we do not have any printings within the hotel, but have instead launched a digital app for guests that enables them to look at our menus, book a table, or even book a time for massage,” Johann shares some of the sustainability practices adopted by ARBOREA.

Holiday planning
After all the planning and construction was done, the 16th July 2018 was a remarkable date for him and his team, as the first ARBOREA hotel opened its doors in the town of Neustadt, part of the northernmost German state Schleswig-Holstein, in the Bay of Lübeck. Johann recaps the first six months of operation: “It has been an excellent start. A day after the official opening, we were fully booked and the rest of the summer also proved a very strong period. Once the colder months kicked in, we have seen that it gets particularly busy during the weekend. December was a good month, because people have begun planning their summer holidays and thinking about where they could go for Easter, so our expectations are that from March onwards, we will experience a considerable rise in guest numbers.

“When I look at demographic trends, I would say that we are targeting and attracting people aged 28-50, including millennials, who work a lot and are successful in their jobs, and who need short breaks now and then to relax a little bit. It is a generation of young and active people whose aspirations to lead a healthier lifestyle fits ideally with our offering that involves being in the nature and practicing outdoor sports, in combination with the tranquillity of doing yoga and pampering yourself with various spa procedures.”

Second hotel
It comes as no surprise that ARBOREA has also carefully crafted its food and beverage proposition to create another vital touchpoint with its young guests who are becoming increasingly interested in consuming high-quality food. To this end, the hotel strives to shop predominantly locally, buying 80 per cent of the fruit, vegetables, and meat it serves from producers based within a range of 80-100 kilometres of ARBOREA’s location. The resort boasts two restaurants – Deli’Cara, which allows clients to do their own cooking, and The Grand Grand Grill, whose sumptuous steaks are certain to please even the pickiest consumer.

If you have been thinking that, now that ARBOREA Marina Resort Neustadt is up and running, the group will settle down, try again. The truth is, Johann and his team are so confident in their concept’s appeal that they have set themselves the ambitious target of growing to 20 locations across Europe in the next ten years. “We are looking to start construction of our second hotel in March and that is scheduled to open in 2021. It will be located in Sankt Gallenkirch in Austria and will feature 112 en-suite rooms and 46 luxury apartments. On top of that, we 47hope to have another two or even three new sites in planning or in construction by the end of 2019. We will first concentrate on the German-speaking countries, but we are more than willing to expand all over Europe, including Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, and Spain,” Johann concludes, projecting ARBOREA’s future growth.