If a falcon is asleep, it is nothing. And when it hunts, it looks like an eagle. A toucan is a beautiful, big, tropical bird, a cheerful animal, a social animal that fits our identity so much better.
In 1939, Martien and Rie Van der Valk opened their eight-room first hotel. It was an upgrade of the former café Gouden Leeuw opened by his father Nicolaas Van der Valk in1862 in Voorschoten, The Netherlands. Since then, the hospitality family business has been continued by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and now by their great-great-grandchildren. In 2000, the Van der Valk Hotels and Restaurants chain became a franchise enterprise with one condition: Every franchise holder must be a direct descendant of Martien Van der Valk. Today, almost 160 years after the Van der Valk tradition began, the rather unique family enterprise has grown to 18 existing hotels, with most of the hotels in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the Caribbean, and Spain. In addition, there are two new hotels under construction in Lelystad and Gorinchem, both in The Netherlands. The homely and cosy atmosphere once started by Martien Van der Valk remains the most valued asset in the family tradition; this is transmitted and reinforced in each and every one of the hotels. Whilst enjoying modern, elegant interior design enhanced by state-ofthe-art technology for the hospitality industry, guests can expect to see Van der Valk family members present in the hotels every day. Perhaps someone is lucky enough to have one of the Van der Valk clan members personally telling old family stories while sipping a cocktail at the Sky Bar, or even sharing a secret family recipe used in the restaurant, so the guest can try it at home.
In addition, there are two new hotels under construction in Lelystad and Gorinchem, both in The Netherlands. The homely and cosy atmosphere once started by Martien Van der Valk remains the most valued asset in the family tradition; this is transmitted and reinforced in each and every one of the hotels. Whilst enjoying modern, elegant interior design enhanced by state-ofthe-art technology for the hospitality industry, guests can expect to see Van der Valk family members present in the hotels every day. Perhaps someone is lucky enough to have one of the Van der Valk clan members personally telling old family stories while sipping a cocktail at the Sky Bar, or even sharing a secret family recipe used in the restaurant, so the guest can try it at home.
Van der Valk Ghent will be the hotel of the future by 2030
Max Van der Valk
General Manager, Van der Valk Ghent Hotel
Max Van der Valk is the fifth generation running the family business. Max is the General Manager of the latest addition to the family hotels chain: The Van der Valk Hotel Ghent, in Belgium. In June 2019, Max embarked himself in the construction of the hotel in Ghent from scratch. The construction continued during the Covid pandemic and lasted for two years. Today, the hotel has 263 rooms across the 23,000m2 property making it one of the largest from the existing 18 hotels in the chain. Max wants to have guests connected since they book, eliminating check-in, with a welcoming front desk that is also walk-through and payment is not an ordeal. Max wants guests to open the door of a room where the lights go on as they enter and they are immersed in a personalised, curated environment within the hotel where everything runs seamlessly according to their specific needs. “At the hotel in Ghent we’d like to automate everything,” says Max. Yet, automation would never reach the level of incorporating robots. Max wants to preserve the human factor, the warm friendliness and personalised care experience that made the Van der Valk brand what it is today. One of Max’s priorities is to automate the staff disponibility across the hotel to better serve guests, offering the maximum comforts, attention, and personalisation during their stay. Max’s ambition is to see his hotel in Ghent not only as a Van der Valk flagship hotel but also as a model for the hospitality industry. “Van der Valk Ghent will be the hotel of the future,” he says.
The ambitious construction of a majestic hotel during a pandemic was not easy. The biggest challenge was the IT infrastructure in the new building and the wireless network. In order to work, the change had to be cost The decision to change from Cisco Classic network solutions used in all the existing Van der Valk hotels — except for the shared office location in The Netherlands where they have a fully managed Meraki solution from IT partner Avit— to full-stack Meraki for the hotel in Ghent meant to dive into uncharted waters. By making the transition in the hotel in Ghent, management could evaluate the added value that the Meraki solutions can provide to the brand and potentially to the other hotels in the chain. In a way, the hotel in Ghent would serve as a pilot project. The energy consumption was a concern. The air conditioning consumes a lot of energy which is wasted in empty rooms and business areas
The smart camera solution immediately solved a lot of issues. We chose this solution because it has the best of both worlds: A really good wireless connectivity with extra access points that is cost efficient.
Max Van der Valk
General Manager, Van der Valk Ghent Hotel
The incorporation of automation played a key role for the Van der Valk Hotel in Ghent. The decision to incorporate smart cameras was paramount to capture real-time data and achieve Max’s goal of using automation in order to deliver an excellent service to guests whilst using staff’s time efficiently. At the same time, the incorporation of smart cameras could bring real-time data to help managers know guests and staff location within the building. This would optimise daily staff allocation planning, they would be where and when they were needed the most. With the help of real-time data and predictive analytics, management could use the data to help plan staff’s shifts better, more efficiently, and in advance in order to offer the best possible seamless service to guests at specific times. Long-time IT partner Avit provided the infrastructure and service which included Meraki solutions. For Avit, selling infrastructure only was not going to give business competence. It was imperative for the IT partner to add more value to the Van der Valk brand, thus improving the business model. Through the use of sensors, it is possible to resolve the problem of the energy wasted in empty rooms. The air-conditioning and lights automatically switch off when the sensors do not detect the presence of a guest.
Selling infrastructure only is not going to give business competence. You need to give more value to the brand.
Managing Director and Co-Owner at Avit Group
Thanks to the use of real-time data that shows the location of guests and employees at all times across the different areas in the hotel, both inside and outside, it was possible to achieve the goal of planning and automating daily work and schedules for hotel staff. The new way of working brings benefits for the employees as well. Since it is possible to determine if they are going to be needed or not, for instance, during a dinner sitting, they can now go home before their shift ends. With the help of IT partner Avit, it was possible to incorporate the use of the Meraki smart cameras system included in the wireless network environment that was installed in the hotel. Strategically located, 47 indoor smart cameras and 9 cameras located outdoors, the CCTV system increased the security of the property in the hotel and in the parking space. By the beginning of 2022, smart locks are going to be added to the IoT network and they will be also connected to the Meraki Wi-Fi. Thanks to Meraki solutions and with the help of IT partner Avit, the Van der Valk Hotel Ghent can start building more use cases making the rooms fully ready for the future. The road ahead will lead toward Max’s vision of the hotel of the future for 2030, a kind of hotel that would make his great-great-grandfather Martien Van der Valk, the very founder of the Van der Valk tradition, utterly proud.