Meet the Owners: Eric Toren, The Toren, Amsterdam

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Eric Toren is the owner and GM of the four-star boutique property The Toren. Located on one of the most prestigious streets in Amsterdam, it is hard to believe that just over ten years ago, it was considered one of the worst two-star hotels in the city.  When he bought and took over The Toren for his father, Eric, along with his wife Petra, began the steep challenge in creating a new image and transforming the hotel into a four-star luxury boutique product.

Today The Toren has 37 rooms, boasting an average year-round occupancy of 95 per cent, and last year it won the 2012 best city hotel at the World Boutique Hotel Awards. In May 2013, Eric also opened a 26-room three-star property just down the road from The Toren called Sebastian's.

What to you do in order to maintain a high quality design at The Toren?
In 2007, I could see that Amsterdam was beginning to see an increase in room supply, so I knew that we needed to create a concept that was different. We changed the design to portray a place that had sex appeal and romance, using a mix between classical and subtle theatrical design elements. We work consistently with an interior designer to ensure that the look and feel always evolves. Each of the rooms are renovated every five years and this year we invested €400,00 to add two new suites. If we have to mix my low boredom threshold, combined with listening to our guests, we are continuously looking for ways to optimise the guest experience.  We recently installed a faster wifi service as our guests were telling us that it was too slow. It is important to impress and to always be a good few steps ahead of the competition.

Ten years ago, you became a qualified psychologist. How has this qualification helped your role as GM?
From the age of 15, I worked in 15 different hotels doing all sorts of jobs. I never had the desire to go to hotel school but by the age of 21 I became the youngest GM in Amsterdam to run a three-star hotel.  When I took over The Toren from my father, I felt that I needed to take on a different management style. By qualifying as a psychologist, I learnt to see how people consider life from their perspective. To offer the best service experience, you have to understand the perceptions and feelings of people - not about what you feel personally is right or wrong. In order to understand feelings on a much deeper level, we also change the music and lighting every four hours to enhance the mood of our guests. We are always aiming to create for our guests a special memory, but it can be challenging at times because when staying at luxury boutique hotel, expectations are always so high.

Are you happy with what you have accomplished so far?
My father used to own and run the worst two-star hotel in Amsterdam. But he was a happy man. In contrast, I'm a total perfectionist and never happy. I have always believed that if you want to be successful in the hotel industry, you need to make sacrifices. When the economic conditions began to weaken during 2008 and 2009, many hotels in Amsterdam went out of business. It was a critical moment for us too, but we managed to sustain a good RevPar and we weathered the storm.  In ten years, I have achieved everything that I set out to do for The Toren.  But I don't think I would go through that experience again.  With our three-star property, Sebastian's, expectations are so much lower and much easier to manage and exceed. I've taken a much more laid back philosophy this time round and so far I'm happy with the results. Maybe soon I'll find some time to relax myself, because I'm emotionally exhausted.

Nathalie Salas is a writer for Perfect Boutique Hotel, a website dedicated to readers who have a passion for boutique and lifestyle hotels. She is a also a freelance consultant specialising in hospitality and tourism, helping small businesses improve their marketing and branding on an international level. Nathalie is British and lives in Asolo, Italy.

Follow her on Twitter: @perfectboutique


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