Its bold take on style made 25hours Hotels the most original hotel group in the country – now it is heading out into the big, wide world.
It’s rare to see two such different men running a successful enterprise in perfect accord with each other: the one is clad in fine Hanseatic style, a double-breasted suit of excellent cloth offset by a tasteful necktie and pocket handkerchief; the other sports a carefully combined look of shabby chic – out-of-pants shirt, gelled hair, three-week beard. Together they manage and develop the country’s most famous young hotel group, 25hours Hotels. The one is hotelier Kai Hollmann, 59, founder and manager of such design-conscious Hamburg hotels as Gastwerk and The George, not to mention backpacker hostelries for a younger clientele, like Superbude. Hollmann built the first 25hours Hotel in 2003. The other is Christoph Hoffmann, nearly ten years younger, who joined the business three years later and as its chief ideologue, as it were, has worked continuously ever since to turn a hotel into a group, into a brand. He had previously worked as an hotelier, latterly as manager of the small but exquisite hotel Louis C. Jacob in Hamburg. From those heights of luxury, Hoffmann plunged into the brave new world of the so-called “lifestyle hotels” – budget hotels with low room rates and a high fun factor.
Thanks to its creative use of retro design from the 1960s and 1970s, the first 25hours Hotel (today with the byname Number One) was an eye opener the moment it opened in a former office building in the Bahrenfeld district of Hamburg in 2003. It was also exceptionally youth friendly, offering a 25 percent discount to under-25s, providing cars and bicycles for guest use free of charge, hosting a string of parties – and everyone on first-name terms.
It was a hotel with a special target group, a kind of youth hotel, but certainly not a youth hostel. It attracted such great interest from the get-go that just two years later, plans had been forged to apply the concept to an entire hotel group. Hollmann and Hoffmann found themselves some enthusiastic accomplices, and in the good ten years since then, eight 25hours Hotels have opened in Germany, and also in Zurich, Switzerland, and Vienna, Austria; and all share the same nonsensical, but clever slogan: “Kennst du eines, kennst du keines!” – Know one, know none at all!
The hotels are designed to be striking, sexy and cheeky
And each hotel tells a story. The one in Hamburg’s HafenCity district (motifs: seafaring, ships, Hanseatic port) tells of Kuttel Daddeldu, the hard-drinking, life-affirming sea dog created by Joachim Ringelnatz, and has containers in the lobby, huge photos of old seamen on the walls, and calls its rooms “berths.” The hotels are designed to be “striking, sexy and cheeky.” It’s the same story in Berlin, where the 25hours Bikini Hotel between the Gedächtniskirche church and the zoo takes the urban jungle as its theme. Stay here and you can hear the zoo animals at night, and everywhere there’s greenery; hammocks and bicycles hanging on the room walls; nostalgic telephones and the highly popular Monkey Bar on the roof. In the early days, the main feature of the 25hours Hotels was their affordability – but that also changed as their success grew. “We stopped being budget long ago,” says Hoffmann. But at least he does aim to keep his room rates from approaching those of Kempinski.
The group’s latest innovation is a “creative lab,” where designers and architects work on new 25hours establishment – the brand naturally wants to continue growing. Before the year is out, the next hotel, The Royal Bavarian, is set to open on Munich’s Bahnhofsplatz. Projects are also underway in Cologne and Düsseldorf, and a second hotel is planned for Zurich, too. And as a great test of courage, one year later 25hours will be opening in Paris, arguably the hottest European location, in an old building near Gare du Nord train station with an exotic retro theme, with the dandified Congolese sapeurs setting the tone.
In actual fact, the hotels with the 25 hours (“because here, 24 are just not enough”) are currently the only German hotel group with a chance of expanding globally. Right now, no one can match their smart mix of design, esprit and cool, so it’s no surprise to the hospitality industry that the small German group recently allowed itself to be wooed by Accor, the huge French hotel group (comprising over 20 brands, from Raffles to Ibis Budget, with some 4000 hotels in 95 countries): It will be the only German brand in the group.
“This means we now have networks on every continent,” says Hoffmann. So the course is set for the development of 25hours hotels “in Melbourne, Miami or Mumbai.” So in the future, people around the world should be able to experience just how pleasant it is when their day at a hotel lasts one hour longer.