The Conservatorium, Amsterdam’s museum hotel

The first project developed, owned and operated by The Set Hotels, The Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam opened in 2011, following impressive reconstruction and renovation works of a classic heritage building which emerged as a contemporary hotel, blending modern, contemporary and classic elements. Constructing an underground swimming pool and SPA as well as a huge atrium with a glass roof are proof to the commitment of the owners to develop an exceptional hotel, regardless of the investment required.

Every corner of the hotel has a WOW aesthetic factor, mostly generated by contrasts or by unusual finishes – a classic facade in sharp contrast with the very modern interiors;  an ultra modern design swimming pool built on a lower ground of a heritage building; a penthouse with views onto the inner atrium and the courtyard of the hotel; the re-allocation of spaces given that the building was purposely built to house a bank in 1878 . I could only image the major engineering challenges of these bold endeavors, not to mention the perseverance with authorities to obtain permissions.

Another unique aspect about The Conservatorium is its location within the elegant museum district of Amsterdam and steps from P.C. Hooftstraat, Amsterdam’s leading shopping street which is home to all major international luxury brands: Bvlgari, Hermes, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Mulberry, Valentino, Hugo Boss, Tiffany etc. The newly re-opened Stedelijk Museum is opposite to the hotel, while the Van Gogh Museum and  Hermitage Museum (exhibits works of the Dutch masters) is within less than 5 minutes walk from The Conservatorium.

Renowned Italian architect Piero Lissoni signs the interior design of all public spaces as well as rooms and suites. Most probably, intentionally, the contemporary interiors of the rooms are in contrast with in-room technology, which is rather basic compared to new luxury hotel openings around the world. In line with the design statement of the hotel, I was expecting integrated touch control pads by the bed and working desk, especially in the larger accommodations such as duplex rooms and suites, where such centralized controls would enhance comfort. Curtains and shades as well as air-conditioning are automatic but each can be controlled from separate panels.

Accommodations are large and some of them on lower floors command palatial high ceilings and impressive entrances. Beds are heavenly and details such as linen, towels and amenities are of the highest quality. I was particularly drawn by the bathrooms, especially those in non duplex suites, which resemble an in-room SPA. The Van Baerle Suite has a spectacular feature with a limestone bathtub at the very entrance of the suite only separated by glass.

There is also room for improvement especially for the duplex type rooms and suites (a third of the room inventory) where air-conditioning (the only source of heating and cooling) is only installed in the upstairs bedroom. Another slight inconvenient is the fact that in the duplex suites, the bathroom upstairs, by the bedroom, only has a bathtub, while the shower is in the bathroom on the lower living room. Wi-fi internet is complimentary however, it comes with the challenge of having to use vouchers with codes  Also, the speed of the wi-fi internet is moderate, which for some guests, especially corporate can be quite frustrating.

Some of the service glitches include: lack of guest name recognition (at each interaction with staff, I would be asked my room number), an impersonal arrival experience, a ”host” service which is supposed to replace a traditional concierge and create a personal interaction but it is actually an ample white desk in the lobby providing guest relations services (during my stay, I was not aware of my host) – unless I would read about this Host service on the hotel’s website, I would not be aware of its existence.

Another important aspect which the hotel needs to tackle is to manage its perception as a hotel – during my stay, the lobby would be filled with ”visitors” who would include the Conservatorium in their sightseeing. On two occasions during my stay, I was met with such visitors on the hallways of the hotel. It is probably one of the reasons some of the staff in Front Office or even lounge bar and Brasserie feel overwhelmed and provide, at times, a rather impersonal service.

Considering that Amsterdam is a predominantly corporate destination with many ”standard” five star hotels, The Conservatorium has an immense opportunity to position itself in a league of its own, as a leading luxury hotel. But only upon implementing such improvements in a timely manner (the hotel has been operational for more than a year), the hotel will be able to claim its luxury ranking.

If indeed The Set aspires to establish itself as an important player in the international luxury hospitality market, its success will clearly depend on fine tuning its service, the functionality aspect of its product but also on the expectations it creates. In today’s hugely competitive environment, customers are increasingly demanding and they would have the same expectations from an independent luxury hotel as they have from a luxury hotel that belongs to a smaller or larger luxury hotel chain.

Oliver Petcu