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QO Amsterdam: sustainable luxury frontrunner (too much?)

When I saw that IHG opened a new luxury hotel in Amsterdam (next to their Intercontinental Hotel Amstel and the Kimpton De Witt) and that it would be a whole new brand, called QO (the first in the world), I could not wait to check it. And although the hotel is pretty neat, it is above all a bit confusing. And with some tweaks, it could very well become my favorite hotel in Amsterdam. Please allow me to explain.

I will review the different elements of the hotel first, before diving into the things that but me the most – mainly the marketing talk used to convey their sustainability en circularity efforts.

Hotel QO Amsterdam

The QO is a really really remarkable hotel, but it kinda hides its true brilliance behind layers of marketing blah (more on that later). Because, below all the difficult marketing talk, is an extremely well-thought-of, sustainable and very convenient luxury hotel. Not that the hotel is super innovative per se, but it combines proven and tested sustainability techniques that have hardly ever been used in hospitality on this scale – hall lights are turned off and only turn on when movement is detected, construction materials were recycled, all water is recycled, etcetera.

The QO has 288 rooms, including 12 suites (designed by London-based agency Conran and Partners). It features conference areas (every time I was there, there were at least 4 meetings going on), a really nice restaurant (Persijn) and a breathtaking rooftop bar/restaurant, all designed by Amsterdam agency Tank.

The bar/restaurant, Persijn, doubles as a breakfast area for hotel guests.

Rooms at QO Amsterdam 8.5/10

QO Amsterdam rooms. Photo by QO Amsterdam
QO Amsterdam rooms. Photo by QO Amsterdam

A brass construction and the different flooring (nice wooden flooring and tiles) devides up the rooms and create a logical division between the sleeping area and the entree/bathroom area, while dubbeling as storage space and a way to showcase sustainable accessories (e.g. their closed glass terrariums).

Rooms aren’t super big, but because of their smart designs feel way bigger than they actually. Standard room assecories like hair dryer are stowed away neatly in drawers, as well as the room safe. Many rooms have a couch over the full length of the large windows, creating cosy corners overlooking parts of Amsterdam.

The showers are large, stylish, walk-in showers (my favorites).

Each room is equipped with an iPad which controls lights, TV and the window curtains. Although the interface is slightly less intuitive as the famous CitizenM iPads, it is amongst the best I have experienced yet.

Another nice detail is the coffee/tea supplied by the hotel, which is way higher quality than normal.

Service at QO Amsterdam 6/10

QO Amsterdam - queueing up at the reception (again)
QO Amsterdam – queueing up at the reception (again)

Probably startup problems, but there is some room for improvement with the staff and the reception area. Some staff members are just truly amazing (the young barista in the bar, one of the managers that brought sparkling water when the queue at the reception was long, one of the ladies arranging, several of the doormen who are just super friendly), but some are just not living up to the standards. Most notably – one time when I was checking in, the young lady at the reception was yawning twice to my face and wrote down the wrong room number on my free-drink card (which then snowballed into the barista having to call the reception to verify that I was indeed a hotel guest). It’s just not up to the level QO seems to aim at.

And that brings me to the reception. This is definitely an area where they can improve. In general, I’m not a huge fan of hotel receptions on the first floor (difficult to make people feel welcome on the ground floor, which is now kinda solved by a doorman-like staff member), but overlooking that, the reception is just remarkably slow and inefficient. The area is a bit chaotic, which resulted in the fact that twice a person jumped queues in front of me just by waiting in another part of the reception area. I once had to wait 20 minutes while 5 people were manning the reception at 15h00 in the afternoon. They need a special concierge-like person to get your bag (who, in two instances had to be hollered from the first floor). They spend insane amounts of time explaining the fact that the hotel rooms have iPads, how the elevators work and what the concept of the hotel is.

When confronting the front desk employees about it, they once told me they are training and hiring extra staff and the other time that we were just unlucky because the system was updating which caused it to reboot.

I really really hope they get this fixed soon.

Location of QO Amsterdam 7/10

The QO Amsterdam is situated next to the Metro/Train connection near Amsterdam Amstel station, at Metro station Spaklerweg. Although the hotel location is good, other properties are closer to the city center and/or have better connectivity with the city.

Same goes for the view from the rooms. Although I can very much recommend the view from the bar or from a room on a high floor, overlooking the Amstel train station, the train tracks or a parking lot isn’t the best possible view.

Going out for a run at the QO Amsterdam 9/10

QO Amsterdam is really close to one of my favorite places to go out for a run in Amsterdam. It’s a few hundred meters to the Ouderkerkerdijk which will lead you to the city of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a beautiful road following the Amstel river. You can even follow the nearby lake, the Ouderkerkerplas and run back through the fields.

Or, you can run exactly the oppositie way along the Amstel river into the city center. If that’s too far for you, you can cross the Amstel river and run through the Amstelpark. I guess, plenty of options for avid runners.

Getting stuff done at the QO Amsterdam 7/10

QO Amsterdam - the lobby with bar
QO Amsterdam – the lobby with bar

This could easily have been a 9/10 … if they had more power sockets. I really really like the communal areas on the ground- and first floor. Light, open, stylish. There’s some great coffee (I listened in on one of the tours at the hotel and apparently the coffee machine costs €15.000) and/or other drinks. But the number of power sockets is rather limited, which leaves a higher table next to the wine cooler and the small round table next to it as the best places to sit down when you got some work to do. It’s either that or a table without a power socket (as shown in the picture above).

Breakfast at QO Amsterdam (Persijn) 9/10

Fruit bowl for breakfast at QO Amsterdam
Fruit bowl for breakfast at QO Amsterdam

I had a la carte breakfast once at the hotel, which was promoted as “we do a la carte breakfast because we are a sustainable hotel”. Kimpton De Witt does a la carte and does not promote itself as a sustainable hotel. So does nearby Hotel V. So did our hotel during our city trip to Madrid. So do many others nowadays. So, this feels like an area where

Because the breakfast is just really, genuinely friggin’ good and tasty. I had a fruit bowl which looked almost too good to start eating (often, it’s just a bowl with some pre-packed fruit)

Before I conclude … the marketing talk spoiling the amazing hotel purpose

The marketing talk

Feel free to skip to the next chapter (conclusion) if you’re not really into a rant on how marketing speak is confusing the QO’s true intentions.

The QO website says we’re a visionary lifestyle destination. I can totally imagine how the hotel was presented internally on a powerpoint. A guy pointing out that two trends are shaping our society nowadays: Technology and sustainability. Super high-tech elevators with touch screens, iPads in the room. Catering to the sustainable crowd and -above all- the new millennial generation. Ah, and these millennials are totally into mindfulness as well. And yoga.

And in a way that is just exactly what they are doing, and actually pretty well. I think my issue with it is mainly how it is worded in hollow phrases – in marketing speak that does not add to the hotel’s admirable purpose and vision, but takes away.

Let’s start with sustainability and circularity. As the hotel site says “Each aspect of the QO has been designed to significantly reduce environmental impact while also contributing to the atmosphere and energy we want you to experience during your stay. From intelligent windows to our rooftop greenhouse, we’re a remarkable living building, shaped by nature and driven by ingenuity”. What they actually do is rather impressive. To highlight a few sustainable masterpieces:

  • they recycle all the water (shower water becomes toilet water)
  • the rooftop greenhouse supplies ingredients (herbs, vegetables, fruit and even fish) to the on-site restaurants and bars
  • hall lights are turned off and only turn on when movement is detected
  • they work with local sustainable entrepreneurs
  • the hotel has a very nifty advanced way of regulating heat (‘the intelligent facade‘)
  • 80 percent of the building’s illumination is provided by natural daylight, reducing the need for electric lighting during waking hours
  • many constructing materials were recycled – almost a third of the concrete used in the construction of the QO came from Amsterdam’s iconic old Shell building

Then technology. Apart from the elevator which confuses me every time (more on that later), the technology in the hotel is rather functional. Each room has an iPad which controls lights, TV and the window curtains.

Last but not least, mindfullness. The fitness on the 20th floor is not just a fitness, but Embody (its name) is described as a “holistic wellbeing studio” (sic) that offers “the latest in fitness and wellness trends with a wide range of group classes, holistic personal training, small group training, nutritional food options, and mindfulness workshops”. Although I’m a regular at hotel gyms and even fancy a yoga session once in a while, even this is waaay too much for me.

So, maybe this is a testament of my Dutchness, but in my humble marketing opinion, they could tone their blah down a notch and focus more on highlighting their accomplishments to their guests in a more down-to-earth way. E.g. Prague‘s Mosaic House has a calculator on their website with their sustainable energy, water initiatives, even the low level IHG properties (Holiday Inn Express) let you collect points when you hang a sign on the door the room shouldn’t be cleaned, ABN AMRO’s circular Circle pavilion has signs about the rainwater in the toilets, etcetera.

The confusing part

So, the start, all this marketing talk confuses me a bit. For me, it takes away from the admirable circular and sustainable hotel concept.

But it’s not the only part that could use some refinement/less confusion.

  • When entering the hotel, there is a elevator area right in front of you, but there is a bar on the right, which could, potentially, if you wouldn’t know better, double as a reception area. However, the reception area is on the first floor, which lets you either use the stairs or go for the elevator. The elevator is operated by a panel before the elevator area, where you first have to choose the right floor (M for the reception, which is confusing in itself), before you get assigned one of six elevators. This choose-your-floor-on-the-panel-first thingy got me several times during my stay at the hotel, where I would have to walk back to the panel because I was already waiting at one of the elevators.
  • Then the name, QO or Q|O (as is shown in their logo) – it took me a while to pronounce it correctly (KO, Q-O? “The QO”?).
  • Then the reception area, well, guess I talked enough about that.

My stay at QO Amsterdam 8/10

Overall, I really really enjoyed my stays at the QO Amsterdam. It is probably my favorite hotel in Amsterdam (apart from the Kimpton De Witt, but that is unfortunately not for my regular stays) – well, if they fix the reception and tone down a bit on the marketing talk.

In total, I have stayed 3 nights at the QO Amsterdam (with another 19 nights booked already). The average price I paid per night was approximately €120,- (excluding breakfast), with prices ranging from €100,- (very lucky, as it seemed to be a filing error) to €150,-.

 

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