Nativity Secrets of Hotel Sonne

Father Helmut in the middle checking out the terrace in front of the porch to the courtyard

Courtyard of Hotel Sonne in Offenburg, GermanyThe courtyard with private parking space and the breakfast room at your left.
Here it is clear that the old part of the building is really old.


Nativity in the wood


Roman style Nativity


Close up of another Nativity


The three Kings


For the less religious there is the showcase with a persiflage of the hoteliers family

You may know that I’ve frequently visited Hotel Sonne in Offenburg, Germany. The hotel is operated by Gabi and her husband Horst. However the father and mother of Gabi, Helmut and Brigitte, who must be well in their 80ies still help their daughter out almost every day. The same family operating this hotel already for over 150 years.

In my prior review I’ve just showed one photo. Here I have some more, also to point you to their little secret: One forebear of Brigitte loved to collect little wooden figures and loved to make showpieces of them, mostly with Nativity as subject. Time permitting Brigitte will love to show them to you. They occupy a couple of their hotel rooms, but soon they will disappear as the hotel rooms will be refurbished in due course and be added to their inventory.

DePhoCussing from ITB 2010 (2): About trying to Hit the Nail on the Head

This is a photo of a moving sculpture in Frankfurt of a hard working man, a smith, in front of the Frankfurter Messe in Germany. The movement of the sculpture suggests the smith hits maibe not a nail, but at least a piece of metal with his hammer. It inspired me for the title of this post. I took this photo almost 3 years ago when I visited some venue at the Frankfurter Messe.

The Marriott Connection
The hotel between the legs of the sculpture is the Frankfurter Marriott on a prime location….opposite the Franfurter Messe.

The association with this post is this: I do admire Bill Marriott who is still a hard working guy where others from his age are sitting “behind the geraniums” as we say in The Netherlands (i.e. are enjoying their retirement) while he rules his Hotel Empire. Moreover he dipped his toes into social media in January 2007 when he started his blog.

The Panel
At the March 2010 PhoCusWright@ITB conference I’ve been acting as a panelist. One of the questions we had to address was: What is the ROI of engaging in social media? I interpreted this question as how many reservations do your blog and your engagement in social media generate for your hotel? Usually I’m not very shy to act as a panelist or as a speaker, but this time I was a nervous wreck: I had said “yes” to act as a panelist and had to come up with a sensible answer and long time I was thinking Metrics Metrics Metrics. My problem is I don’t know the metrics. I had never looked at metrics. I had never thought about metrics. Even today I’m only faintly aware there are metrics available to see the conversions from tweets or from messages on your FaceBook page….but I do not know the details….
So I held to my rather professional camera with the ominous looking professional lens, marched to the floor with my fellow panelists and started taking photos from the audience… Despite the prior thorough briefing by Richard Zucker

I was totally unaware of the huge noise the clicking of my camera made. The whole bunch of techies that orchestrated the conference went berserk, because nobody else could be understood anymore. Kevin May, who moderated the panel made me graciously aware of my misbehavior. But while clicking away on stage the answer came to me and all of a sudden I was able to formulate it in a more or less comprehensible way. I would love to see the footage of that panel discussion back once.

My Answer to the ROI question:
“For me quality goes before quantity and I don’t know how to measure quality. I try to attract guests who when they know more of me and like what they see of me, also like to stay in my hotel, which is likely to enhance their experience……”

Pff saved by the bell. By the reactions of several people there and then and later when I discussed it over with several other people it stuck and they agreed and even got inspired by the idea. So I’m glad that by DePhoCussing I was able to focus on the answer that is really my answer to the question, maybe not the anticipated answer, but my answer. Another lesson was that by acting “out of the box” and taking photos of the audience instead of someone in the audience taking photos by me, I was able to attract their attention and I tend to believe my answer stuck better. I maybe even snooped away some attention from my fellow panelists. Sorry guys!

Who should be responsible for a company’s engagement in social media?
Another question at the panel was the very corporate question who should be responsible of social media in a hospitality company: The Ceo? The custom care department? The marketing or the PR types? and a whole lot more answers came along. My answer was very simple: “It should be the CEO, because In Real Life he is already the face of the company, so why not be same In Virtual Life? I pointed to Bill Marriott as an example who does a very good job at this. I then also stated that if the CEO would have not enough time to do all himself, because actually being engaged in social media means being 24/7 engaged in social media, he should delegate. My point is that if a CEO doesn’t trust his coworkers to engage in social media, then there is something wrong with his organization: “How can a hotelier trust his coworkers to receive a guest in his hotel and not trust them to engage with past, present or future guests via social media?”

What makes the circle round
And now comes the funny part. During a San Francisco EyeforTravel conference about Social Media in Travel there was a Marriott case made available which was put together by the Marriott Social media team… to my huge surprise they quoted this tweet of March 15, 20009 of me :

read-bill-marriott-blog

Which I posted in March 2009 about in What should Hotel Owners Know about Social Media
Lessons learned:
Even the big man (Bill Marriott) sometimes listens to the small guy (Happy Hotelier)…otherwise they would not have used this picture which they obviously pinched from this blog, because now the screen capture of the tweet shows date and time and another backgroung and not posted 13  minutes ago. Moreover, even the small guy can become a (small) authority on social media simply by blogging, engaging in social media and being part of conferences and sometimes giving a presentation which forces him to rethink his activities from time to time.
Credit
A big thank you to Graham Robertson (@Grayum_ian) of  Project: Wander who pointed me to the Marriott Case at Eyefortravel. If you’re interested in the case study, you can dowbload it for free at Eye For Travel. It’s really worthwhile a read about the blogger who doesn’t blog.

Postcards from Scheveningen – A Plea to revive the Scheveningen High Back Beach Chair (Dutch Design 47)

Postcard of Scheveningen Beach dating before 1900
Postcard of Scheveningen Beach dating before 1900

Scheveningen is a suburb of The Hague and the main beach resort of The Netherlands.

1906 Postcard - Scheveningen beach with the Kurhaus
1906 Postcard - Scheveningen beach with the Kurhaus

Since we enjoy a wonderful summer here in the Hague, I’m remembering the typical good old cane High Back Scheveningen Beach Chair that used to be all over the Scheveningen beaches. These chairs disappeared completely from the Scheveningen Beach scene in the 70ies.

One problem was that they are very heavy. You need two persons to move them. The second problem is they were a bit unstable. With a bit of wind, they are easily blown over.

However, they had two huge advantages:

  1. Wind protection.
    By their design they already offered a nice protection against the wind. If you added a towel inside in the back the protection was complete.
  2. They offered you a nice feel of privacy: No strangers’ eyes burning in your back.

Dreamy Scheveningen Beach Postcard - Undated
Dreamy Scheveningen Beach Postcard - Undated

I’ve grabbed some historic postcard pictures from the internet to make my point while I was in search of modern equivalents for this wonderful beach chair, but couldn’t find a decent one. That is strange as the modern materials for outdoor chairs are so flexible. High Back beach chairs still do have a function as the following postcard fro a German Beach proves:
Postcard from a recent G8 Top
Postcard from a recent G8 Top

A recent G 8 top postcard with several World Leaders on a Northern German beach in its own model of a high back beach chair. It is much heavier, hence it is not feasible for Scheveningen where you have to adapt to the wind direction frequently, but a swiveling high back maybe?

So Chair designers out there: If the Germans can do this, why can’t the Dutch do this?

10 Questions For (31): Gesa Noormann of Escapio

Happy to present Gesa Noormann of Escapio

Gesa-Noormann
1) Who Are you?
My name is Gesa Noormann. I am doing PR for Escapio, a booking platform for exclusive, handpicked hotels. I especially love testing out and reporting on our gorgeous hotels in the Escapio Blog. I live in the middle of Berlin with my twin daughters and two rabbits. Aside from travelling, I love cooking and having friends over to share food and drinks

2) What do you like about what you do?
It may sound a little kitschy, but I have always dreamt of landing a job like I have at Escapio. It combines my passions for travel, great hotels and writing. The internet offers so many possibilities to communicate with people and to develop new marketing ideas that I really feel I’m doing exciting and new things every day.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
Sometimes I miss meeting people personally instead of having virtual contacts on the internet.

4) Please tell us all about your site / blog and your aims with it.
Escapio is a booking website with a selection of handpicked hotels. Our concept is that customers can choose their hotel by lifestyle criteria like romantic or design hotels rather than just by destination or price. In times of bargain deals we want to give our customers the security of enjoying a special stay in an excellent hotel. Our blog is a complement to the website, for our customers to share our experiences with hotels, locations and lifestyle.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Egypt: so many things to see, such a rich cultural heritage, the Nile in the middle of the desert… just great!

Provence/Côte d’Azur: beautiful landscape, great food, my favorite language, fabulous shopping opportunities.

Venice: The City of my heart, a mix of beauty, decadence and melancholia.

La-Posta-Vecchia
La-Posta-Vecchia

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
La Posta Vecchia, Rome. The perfect hideaway for lovers (ex-villa of Paul Getty and his lover). You actually sleep in the bed of Katharina de Medici, enjoy great food and eternal beauty near the city. Great restaurant with one Michelin star

The Hotel Al Moudira Louxor. The Lebanese owner brought all the antiquities and style from her villa in Cairo to this new built hotel in the middle of the desert. This hotel near King’s valley is a real oriental dream.

The Hollmann Beletage in Vienna: A very special and unique place in the historic center of Vienna. Actor Robert Hollmann realized with this hotel his personal idea of feeling at home – only better.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?
Restaurant Hugo’s in the Intercontinental Hotel Berlin: Thomas Kammeier got his Michelin star for a good reason. He serves excellent, honest food with regional influences (his interpretation of the “currywurst” is unforgettable). Great panoramic view of Berlin.

Restaurant Le Castelleras near Fayence, France: This attractive stone villa is perched on a hillside and overlooks Fayence and the valley. A hidden and splendid location to enjoy refined Provençal-style cuisine. Great home-made ice cream with olive oil from the olive plantation behind the villa.

Harry’s Dolci in Venice with a great view on the Canale Grande. The food is fantastic and the other reason why I will never forget this experience is that my boyfriend and I, freshly in love, were not allowed to kiss. The manager’s severe call “Not in my restaurant” has become kind of an idiom between us since then.

8) Your top 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
Unfortunately, I have canceled the names of these places out of my memory, so I cannot warn you

A hotel in downtown New York City, a so called in-place for artists. Perhaps I am not bohemian enough to live cockroaches in my bed as an interesting experience.

A hotel in Etropole/Bulgaria (best place in town!): My boyfriend is still getting spots on his face when he remembers the 50-years-of-socialism-carpet, 40 degrees in the room and no curtains…The wedding of my ex au pair was great, however, and for 19 euros per night you cannot really complain either.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
Well, just have a look on Escapio’s Berlin hotels. I would send my most stylish friends to the Hotel Q in West Berlin. It is really fashionable and cool with guests like Angelina Jolie and Amy Whinehouse. Prices are really affordable, and the bar is a great chill out place.
The Ellington Hotel is great, too. Or for party people, I would choose the Arcotel Velvet in Berlin Mitte. If you want more luxury and are post materialist-design lover, please do not miss The Mandala at Potsdamer Platz, it is just gorgeous!

For people who like to spend money on food, I would suggest the Hugo’s (mentioned above), the Margaux at Unter den Linden or the Horvath in Kreuzberg. For a lower budget, a great rustic Italian is the Café Aroma in Kreuzberg or the Vietnamese Si An http://www.expedia.de/vc/reisefuehrer/restaurant-si-an-berlin-27737) in Prenzlauer Berg.

Hollmann-Beletage-Vienna
Hollmann-Beletage-Vienna

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Perhaps why people should choose Escapio? Because we believe in our choice of hotels (one of the best in the Mediterranean) and have a great, enthusiastic team that loves to help our customers book their dream hotel.

My Take

Thank you Gesa! In Berlin you mention places I certainly will check out at a future occasion and your mention of Hollmann Beletage will surely make me try out that one once over my current Vienna favorites. Big question: When will Escapio follow up my suggestions for Dutch additions to its site?