Digitally designed Antwerp hotel to open in summer 2021
Norwegian chain Citybox plans to launch a 180-key hotel scheme in Antwerp, which is being developed with help from online tools due to Covid-related travel restrictions, in late summer.
Citybox Antwerp is set to debut soon after its development team managed to successfully navigate the challenges of doing business during a pandemic.
Scandinavian design and simple modern solutions
In collaboration with contracting party IRET Development, Citybox is forging ahead with its European expansion strategy by creating this new property in the centre of Antwerp via the Teams platform. The 180-key hotel, boasting modern hotel rooms with Scandinavian design and self-service check-in, is on track to open in Molenbergstraat 2 at the end of the summer.
Overall, Citybox aims to integrate simple and modern solutions. A reception has been replaced with check-in terminals, and minibars have been replaced with an introduction to what bars the local area has to offer, based on the idea that ‘the city is filled with bars; why would you need one in your room?’
“For a long time, we have wanted to establish a hotel in Benelux, and we are beyond excited to both sign and open this hotel in record time,” said Martin Smith-Sivertsen, head chairman at Citybox. “We strongly believe that Antwerp’s tourism industry will make a quick recovery now that the pandemic moves to an end.”
Carl-Philip de Villegas, CEO of IRET Development, added: “We are very happy with Citybox as a long-term tenant and trusted operator. We are convinced of their added value to the hospitality offer in Antwerp and wish them good luck once travel bounces back and brings tourists and businessmen/women back to Antwerp.”
An innovative design process
The hotel agreement was only signed in February 2021, with its planned opening date of this summer giving Citybox just five months to design the property.
Eivind Hjulstad, CEO of Citybox, said: “When IRET presented the project, we knew that both the location and the size of the building were perfect for Citybox. If the times were normal, we would travel down to see the building and to discuss the possibilities within the projects. We knew that we probably wouldn’t see the hotel physically until close to the opening, but we all agreed that we had to make it work.
“The solution was Teams and video calls. We have weekly Teams meetings with everyone involved plus additional meetings for different disciplines. We’ve also had numerous video viewings of the property where the project managers from Iret have worked as our eyes and ears.”
Remarkably, many of the parties involved in realising the Citybox Antwerp scheme have been unable to meet in person to discuss the project.
“Despite the circumstances, it has been a good and thorough process,” Hjulstad added. “IRET is a professional partner that we have great confidence in. Without a developer with their level of experience, we wouldn’t have entered into this agreement. We’ve joked about the project going down in history books based on both the short period from signing to opening and how unique the process has been.
“It’s been a crazy couple of months. Just imagine decorating a lobby and 180 rooms without the possibility of seeing the property. It’s almost like decorating your own home, just relying on the floor plans before you even get access to the house. In only months, we’ve negotiated a deal, planned and built a hotel – without even physically meeting each other or seeing the property.
“I’m sure that we will look back at this in a couple of years and think that it was completely insane. We often say that we like to do things differently at Citybox; this project proves it.”
Citybox currently operates four hotels in Bergen (two), Oslo and Tallinn. It has also signed deals to open a further five properties in the coming years.
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