Hotel Okura, Amsterdam: Offering Peaceful Luxury and Exquisite Experience

The Japanese way of living has slowly been impressing the world not just with words, but the positive effects and evident results it has on those who follow it. Omotenashi or the Japanese Philosophy of Hospitality has grown in popularity since the world heard about it during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Omotenashi captures the way in which

Japanese hosts pay attention to detail and anticipate their guests’ needs. This philosophy is also the core value around which Hotel Okura Amsterdam functions.

Hotel Okura Amsterdam is THE preferred 5-star hotel in Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands, to visit & to work and is known for creating exquisite guest experiences & offering a challenging and inspiring work environment.

The Harmony between Eastern and Western Influences

Hotel Okura Amsterdam is much more than just a hotel. It offers a comprehensive variety of services and a wide range of high-quality facilities all under one roof, including 5 restaurants: Ciel Bleu – A 2 Michelin stars awarded restaurant known for refined flavours and stunning view.

Yamazato – 1 Michelin star awarded restaurant that offers traditional Japanese haute cuisine Kaiseki Ryori.

Sazanka – At Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka, dishes are prepared on a hot plate in front of guests.

Serre – Awarded Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, it offers high-quality international specialties in a relaxed atmosphere.

La Camelia – The breakfast specialty restaurant.

It also houses Nagomi Spa with Gym & Wellness and treatments that offers a unique combination of products and techniques to nourish the skin with the nutrients and protection to defend itself from the harmful effects of environmental stress.

The Hotel has the largest conference capacity among all 5-star hotels in Amsterdam (from accommodating 2 to 2,500 guests simultaneously, 20 meeting rooms, and 4 foyers (total of 2,700 m2)). It offers high-level culinary offerings, even for large numbers. Michelin-star-worthy dinners and lunches. Major corporates host events for internal or external relations at Hotel Okura Amsterdam.

Hotel Okura Amsterdam is centrally located in the heart of the city. It is located near Schiphol Airport and Central Train Station and has a private boat jetty and extensive parking. It is an oasis of comfort in the city, with places of complete tranquillity for rejuvenation and relaxation. Nagomi Spa offers Nagomi Spa Treatments and Nagomi Gym & Wellness.

Omotenashi, Japanese hospitality from the heart, is deeply rooted in its DNA and is a distinguishing factor. It’s about personal interaction and genuine interest in others, without expecting anything in return. Not putting oneself in the foreground but focusing on others. It requires intensive training and dedication from the employees.

Michiel Roelfsema, the General Manager, explains: “We place equal importance on our employees and guests. We are just as much a hotelier as an employer. Only by empowering our employees to excel, we can deliver the unparalleled experience we promise. What’s great about this hotel is that both guests and employees are here because they enjoy it.”

The assignment to the team at Okura is not only about meeting expectations, but exceeding them. They don’t compromise on quality and prefer to serve fewer guests at the level they deserve rather than more guests, less well. “We pay a lot of attention to quality and long-term success. Michelin stars, for example, are not a given; you have to earn them every year. With Yamazato, we made history. As the first traditional Japanese restaurant, Yamazato received a Michelin star over 20 years ago. Ciel Bleu received its first Michelin star in 2003 and its second since 2006,” says Michiel.

Leading with Pride

Michiel Roelfsema started as General Manager of Hotel Okura Amsterdam mid-2019, at the age of 36. A role he accepted with pleasure and pride: “Being offered this role by an established company like Okura is a great compliment and a significant responsibility, a responsibility that I still gladly embrace every day,” says Michiel.

Prior to that, he had already worked at the hotel for ten years, holding various roles through which he had earned his stripes. Michiel knows the company from various angles and benefits from it every day. Michiel explains: “Not only have I personally experienced many highlights and situations, but I have also known many employees for a very long time. This strengthens the bond and builds mutual trust. This combination forms the foundation for a productive collaboration. What’s beautiful is that new employees naturally adopt our way of interacting with each other and add their own talents and passion. This makes us continuously stronger as a whole.”

Michiel can be described as a connector: “As General Manager, I am involved in the entire organization and have a general overview of what is happening. This allows me to bring all stories and people together. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of my role. Creating connections between people, thereby increasing the quality, impact, and job satisfaction.”

Technology Meets Tradition

“Our guests are of utmost importance to us. They deserve all our attention and service. Technology supports us to offer guests the Omotenashi hospitality that is in our DNA in today’s fast-paced and personalized world. We carefully consider each customer journey, allowing us to exceed our guests’ expectations,” explains Michiel.

Hotel Okura is ambitious and critically positive. For example, they prefer to anticipate a guest’s needs rather than wait for them to ask a question. The staff is trained for this. They engage with guests and pay close attention. If it’s raining, they gladly walk with the umbrella to the car. They provide proactive service. “Thanks to technology, we can do this even better. Technology helps us know who is in front of us and what their preferences are. So, can technology alone provide an Omotenashi experience? No, only the employees can, but technology can certainly support and enrich the experience,” shares Michiel.

Rooms are also infused with technology, often invisibly, to provide guests with an optimal and comfortable experience. Guests often comment on how special it is that the curtains open at the entrance, revealing the beautiful view of the city, and reducing energy consumption while being closed. This is a very simple and visible example of how technology makes a difference in the guest experience and in sustainability. The fact that room settings (lighting, temperature) are remembered when the guest leaves the room and that various services are initiated is even more sophisticated. Not everyone is aware of that, but it certainly contributes to the overall experience at Hotel Okura.

Furthermore, they use AI for efficiency and data to make better decisions. Finally, technology also plays a significant role in their sustainability policy.

Innovating for Long-Term

Hotel Okura Amsterdam focuses on quality and continuity. Renewing and innovating is not a goal in itself, but it is very important in many areas of the hotel. Innovation is an accumulation of improvements within Hotel Okura Amsterdam, not necessarily a big bang. “When operating at the highest level, you keep tweaking to achieve the highest possible standards. For us, innovation is a careful consideration of whether such an investment contributes to long-term success in terms of economics, sustainability, and quality. To deliver outstanding quality and ensure continuity, continuous improvement is essential. The Japanese Kaizen philosophy, meaning: continuous improvement, fits us very well,” explains Michiel.

Being in the highest segment means Hotel Okura has to deal with high expectations. This creates a pleasant pressure. It motivates them to improve every day. Their esteemed culinary offerings also demonstrate their creativity and innovation drive. They surprise guests every time with the variety of their offerings and the high-quality products they work with. Guests can see and taste it. Combined with excellent service, it promises them an unforgettable evening.

“We pay attention to every detail. Everything must be in place to offer an unparalleled overall experience. This is evident throughout the hotel, regardless of the area where the guest is located. Omotenashi, Japanese hospitality, is a constant factor that enables us to create a holistic experience. Everywhere in the hotel, guests are welcomed with the same attention and interest. Our helpfulness and thoughtfulness are truly noticed by guests. Everyone is focused on exceeding that overall experience,” says Michiel.

The Challenges

As in many countries, there is a labor shortage in the Netherlands. “We find that once talent works with us and enjoys it, they stay with us for a long time. Many of our employees take pride in working with us,” says Michiel.

Hotel Okura Amsterdam is fortunate to have the loyalty of many employees. This demonstrates that the hotel’s attention to a pleasant culture, development opportunities, and good terms of employment are appreciated. “We should be less modest about this and empathize it in our external communications. This will also help attract new talent. We will focus more on our recruitment policy, both for those who have been in the industry for a long time and for newcomers. Hotel schools and vocational training institutes will continue to hear from us,” says Michiel.

Achieving Diversity and Sustainability Goals

The workforce of Hotel Okura Amsterdam is characterized by a great diversity of nationalities. They have 40 different nationalities working with them. Because of the hotel’s Japanese roots, it’s attractive for Japanese people to work with them, and it’s obviously for Dutch people due to the location. It’s a blend of cultures at all levels in the organization, fitting the international clientele. They regularly conduct employee satisfaction surveys. They score very high on pride. They feel at home and feel heard. That makes Michiel extremely proud.

As for sustainability, Hotel Okura Amsterdam is a Platinum member of Green Globe. This means that for 10 years, they have continuously made improvements in environmental, social, and economic areas. The sustainability aspect of new investments is always heavily weighed and is a determining factor. They focus on three sustainable development goals (SDGs):

· Responsible consumption and production – They ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

· Climate action – They take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

· Partnerships for the goals – They revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Long-term Vision and Goals

Hotel Okura Amsterdam recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 and wants to continue to be at the top and continuously improve, following the Kaizen philosophy.

“What sets Hotel Okura Amsterdam apart is its long-term vision. We do everything thoughtfully and to the best of our ability. Building quality and ensuring continuity remains our constant focus. The Japanese Kaizen philosophy encourages continuous improvement. If you want to continuously improve, you’re never finished. Fortunately, the hospitality industry is far too beautiful for that. We experience a lot of freedom and autonomy from the

ownership and hotel management group to pursue this policy. We will have a persistent focus on further optimizing Omotenashi, technology, and sustainability,” concludes Michiel.