With extensive experience of the hospitality and leisure industry across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Johann Kerkhofs is no stranger to the challenges and subsequent rewards which the industry can bring. With evolving customer demands, alongside an increased global tourism boom, guests are no longer content with traditional services, but are consistently looking to gain an unforgettable experience at each destination.
Specialising in everything related to hotel and hospitality services, Kerkhofs has sought to transform the traditional guest experience by concentrating on communication, community and bringing people together through a new, innovative hotel concept known as ARBOREA Hotels und Resorts.
Originating from ‘abor’, meaning ‘tree’ and formed and developed by Kerkhofs during his time in Egypt and Jordan, ARBOREA Hotels und Resorts is focused on bringing people together during their vacation.
“The travel behaviour of tourists has changed. Many people now travel for a couple of days, but more often, rather than three weeks in a row,” he explains. “We provide an interesting product and all kinds of services for our guests and want people to experience more during their vacation through being outdoors and undertaking various sports and activities.”
A variety of rooms will be on offer to cater for families, couples and lone travellers, with all beds positioned directly into nature, creating a unique experience for all guests. The concept will only utilise natural materials, sustainable products and locally sourced goods, eliminating most plastics and sourcing alternative solutions. Carpets have been created out of recycled fisherman nets, promoting upcycling. Hangers and tissue boxes at all establishments are also constructed out of old maps and files.
Additionally, all establishments under ARBOREA will be powered by 100% green energy sources. The company’s ARBOREA resort in St Gallenkirch, Austria will house a pellet heat system and photovoltaic energy to provide essential electricity.
With the aim to transform the guest experience, ARBOREA houses a number of communication platforms to build a sense of community. An amphitheatre, named The Stairs, is an essential space for guests to socialise, relax, and enjoy all the entertainment options on offer at all resorts.
Secondly, noting that food traditionally brings people together, the kitchens, which have been certified by green chiefs, have been strategically placed in the centre of all restaurants under ARBOREA, bringing people together wherever possible.
“When you have a group of eight to 10 people who decide to cook for an afternoon with our chef, people automatically connect to create something which tastes great, whilst they learn how to cook with fresh products,” says Kerkhofs.
Long tables have also been placed in the dining area, promoting communication across all avenues.
Kerkhof’s commitment to promoting sustainability across ARBOREA has also been extended to the food provided to guests. Procuring 80% of products, which are not only ethically sourced but bought within a 100km radius, strong relationships with local farmers and suppliers have been established across the business.
“We buy our vegetables and fruits locally and have a winery not far away from the hotel. It's all about local food and a local experience. Guests who come to us know where our food products are coming from,” says Kerkhofs. “Our grill restaurant, for example, provides all different cuts of meat, from a Tomahawk steak to a normal rib eye or fillet steak. Fish and all different kinds of vegetables are also on offer. We have a special grill which we imported from Grillworks® in New York.”
A variety of activities are offered through the ARBOREA Experience. From running and cycling to paddle boarding and yoga, water sports are a particular focal point at the company’s hotel in Neustadt, where sailing, wakeboarding, kite surfing and diving are all on offer. The concept of collaborating and creating something new has also been extended to the establishment of a woodwork workshop, enabling guests to create their own furniture and upholstery.
“Through these activities, people get to know each other and you get a different kind of atmosphere,” observes Kerkhofs.
Offering an E-Mobility Centre in cooperation with GP Joule, ARBOREA also provides e-bikes, e-cars and e-scooters on demand. However, not content with catering solely to leisure travellers, the concept has also been built to serve corporate guests. A number of conference rooms have been established to cater to up to 80 attendees, transforming the traditional corporate experience.
“We furniture the rooms to our guests’ preferences. We have three conference rooms and a community room. Guests are not sitting in a row, as we try and make it more collaborative. Guests can have a type of living room experience, and is very interesting for corporate businesses. Guests can also celebrate their wedding, birthday or any kind of celebration with us,” observes Kerkhofs.
Noting that 12 projects in total are in development, ARBOREA Hotels und Resorts has an ambitious plan to make it one of the most recognised and widely renowned hotel brands across Europe, launching its first resort in Neustadt in July
With a clear strategy to build 19 new resorts in the next 10 years, focusing primarily on German speaking countries, the Dolomite region of Italy and Spain, the company’s unveiling of its hotels in St Gallenkirch and its Schierke will be undertaken between 2020-2021.
“It is all dependent on what the opportunities are. We have some special requirements for land plots, how we want to build our hotels and where they have to be built,” concludes Kerkhofs.
“We don't want to build a hotel in urban areas, but always a bit more out the way where guests have a view. We want to be close to urban areas, but at the same time it's important for us to be green and to be a natural resort which will bring its own lifestyle.”