Michael Levie, COO of Dutch hotel chain citizenM, says it was a thrill to be awarded the title ‘World’s Trendiest Hotel 2010’ by website TripAdvisor earlier this year. “This award captures what we are trying to do,” he says, sipping a coffee in a London restaurant. “And that’s pretty cool.” That coolness is something citizenM is hoping to spread across Europe and the US over the next few years.

Later this summer, the company will be launching its first overseas operation in Glasgow and, once the permits are sorted, two London sites could be ready to open by the end of 2011 or early 2012 – just in time for the London Olympics. Mr Levie says the company is looking to expand the afford­able luxury hotel chain into 20 cities over the next five years, with possible locations including Paris, Milan and New York.

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Cult of personality

With two sites already in Amsterdam – one in the city centre and the other located at Schiphol airport – the brand has really hit a nerve with travellers, impressed by the personality of the hotel. The concept, according to Mr Levie, is a breakthrough for the hotel sector. “We chose the niche of the mid-market traveller because they are a growing population but not overly spoiled,” he says. “The mid-market is where most of us live and in our personal life we have aspirations and associate ourselves with a lifestyle. In hospitality that is not the case; it is a big, bland tapestry. So we thought you can create a mid-level lifestyle hotel that is also an experience.”

That experience is based around the idea of a boutique-styled hotel that feels like home. The stylish lobby – with furniture by hip Swiss designer Vitra – does not have a front desk but rather a check-in kiosk, much like a cashpoint, where guests pull up their online booking and enter personal settings that include preferred music, lighting and temperature. One of the reasons the hotel is able to offer luxury at an affordable price is because there are no overhead costs such as a check-in or a restaurant. There is, however, a kitchen, which Mr Levie says is a combination of Starbucks, UK sandwich retail chain Pret a Manger and a small bar, serving sushi and salads as well as cappuccinos and champagne.

Room with a view

But it is not just the interior of the hotel that is unique, the actual building is also something not seen anywhere else in the hotel industry. Unlike constructing a hotel in a traditional sense on-site – and taking a few years to complete – citizenM’s 14-square-metre rooms are manufactured in factories off-site and then stacked and vertically connected into the hotel’s interior. “Small rooms mean we can produce en masse, so we can create a building faster, more economically and with less waste, yet of higher quality,” says Mr Levie.

The rooms for the UK are being built in Liverpool, and the only things that need to be added to them once they are in place are the bed linens and easy chair. “A mid-market four-star hotel in a major European city costs between $140,000 and $190,000 per key. We are able to do that 45% cheaper – a major quantum leap in terms of the cost of construction,” says Mr Levie. He adds that Glasgow was chosen for several reasons, including what he calls the “tremendous positivity” of the city. “We are like a fish in water there,” he says. “We are happy to be opening in Glasgow first and it will be a good dress rehearsal for London.”

COMPANY PROFILE

CitizenM

Headquarters

Voorschoten, NetherlandsFounded

2007Employees

20 in the company’s headquartersChairman

Rattan ChadhaMarkets

Netherlands, with planned openings throughout Europe