Cloud executive officer, Cloud.7 Hotels, Marloes Knippenberg

Cloud.7 Hotels

The newly-formed hospitality company Cloud.7 recently launched its debut property Cloud.7 Ataköy Marina Istanbul. Panayiotis Markides speaks with cloud executive officer (CEO), Cloud.7 Hotels, Marloes Knippenberg to learn all about what will set the brand apart in the MENA region.

TTG: Please share with our readers how Cloud.7 came to be?

To introduce ourselves, we are an innovative, independent and affordable new hotel management brand for the next generation traveller; a contrast concept where the introvert meets the extrovert, bringing together cosy ‘clouds’ – the rooms – with Cloud.7’s unique social and sharing spaces and the latest technology. We see Cloud.7 as a real connection point between our local and global worlds, made more relevant and personal through technology, which we don’t see as simply being a tool, but rather in today’s world, it has become an extension of ourselves, becoming a kind of seventh sense – hence why we are Cloud.7!

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Our aim with Cloud.7 was to shake up the boundaries of the traditional hotel model in our target regions; Turkey, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Caucuses, where we saw a gap in the market for affordable hotels that really respond to today’s savvy, fast-moving global traveller. Our team is united by our determination to do things differently; initially it was a meeting of minds as Antony Doucet, Cloud.7 brand director and The House Hotel Collection Brand and marketing director, together with his House Hotel colleagues and investors, identified the mid-market as the new opportunity in the region after having successfully launched The House Hotel Collection in Turkey.

Brought together by Michael O’Shea, investor in both hotel projects, we created a fantastic team of specialists to develop the concept and ideas about what the brand should be before transforming it to what is now: Cloud.7.

Indeed, after many combined years in the corporate hotel world, Antony and I, together with our general manager Onder Gok, had moved on from our various global hotel chain management positions with a burning desire to change the status quo and create a much more interesting and innovative guest experience. Hence, the Cloud.7 concept as it is today was born.

We believe that it’s not enough to make cosmetic or design-based changes, but that what we need today is a real 360-degree approach that is different at every touch-point, which we have examined in detail at how we make the experience more fluid and intuitive – thereby becoming much more enjoyable and relevant to the modern traveller.

TTG: How are Cloud.7 properties a unique offering in the hospitality segment?

Starting a youthful hotel concept, it’s our mission to do things differently by working to overcome the hurdles and challenges of traditional hospitality.  First, we’re going for something unique in our choice of destinations; we believe there’s so much scope for addressing the demand for new concepts in our target regions of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Caucasus which haven’t been a target for many of the new hotel brands, who are more focussed on establishing in the traditional markets of Western Europe and North America; so that is where we’ll be different with our destinations in some of the fastest-growing and youth-driven countries in the world.

And although a big part of the Cloud.7 hospitality promise is design, style and affordability we are pushing the boundaries as far as possible with technology and a 360-degree approach to create an intuitive experience at every touch-point.  Starting from our deskless lobby, online check-in and out, in-room ‘handy’ mobiles and access to our Cloud.7 team 24-7 via social media channels – through to innovative features such as partnering with ‘Art50.net’ to collaborate with emerging local artists and brands so that guests can buy the affordable art via their mobile device to take home with them.  We are currently developing lots of new initiatives to merge technology and fun for our guests, so watch this space for more!

We are also focussed on directly addressing the modern traveller’s desires for connection, communication and immersion in local culture such as through our ‘Meet the Locals’ platform where guests can get connected to and share experiences with like-minded locals in the city.  We also nurture and support the local initiative that matters most to each of our communities, providing the space, expertise and support for them to flourish; in Istanbul this is the Olive Tree Women’s Craft Collective for Syrian refugee women, who make and sell their jewellery at Cloud.7 with that revenue going directly back to the makers to support their livelihood.

We also value change and differentiation, so that as Cloud.7 Hotels grow, we won’t be adopting a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach or creating a fixed template or model that we impose on each of our new properties.  Each of our destinations will have its own unique interpretation of the Cloud.7 hotel brand and while our core brand values of will be at the heart of all our projects, many of the features from the design and local art curation to the technological innovations will be adapted to reflect the distinctive culture, locality and even individual property of each of our locations. This we believe will keep things exciting for our guests wherever they choose to stay with us!

TTG: With the first property open in Istanbul, are there any plans for further properties elsewhere? Can you share what’s in the pipeline?

On February 23 we opened our first hotel in Istanbul’s up-and-coming Ataköy district and we will now be moving quickly to open 15 new properties over the next two years in some of the fastest-developing destinations in the world in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Middle East from Tbilisi and Tehran to Muscat, Izmir, Dubai and Doha to become the no.1 choice for the curious and connected traveller in these regions by 2020.

These are regions that are developing so fast spurred by their young population.  This is the next generation of global traveller and entrepreneur, not to mention how connected they are on social media.  Cities like New York and London are known for their innovation, choice and change, but the world is constantly expanding, and the focus is shifting to these younger dynamic markets which are at the forefront of our strategy. It’s exciting to be developing an independent hotel brand that we hope will provide a real alternative for the new global digital-savvy traveller.  Wherever we base ourselves, we want to create exciting spaces that give people a sense of belonging wherever they go.

Where we eventually end up will also depend us on finding the right hotel and property owners who are looking for a unique concept that will make a real and visible difference to the market, and who really understand how the “Millennial at Heart” traveller of today has different expectations, needs and desires to those of the past.

TTG: What made Istanbul an ideal location to open the first Cloud.7 property?

We found a wonderful property owner in Istanbul who shared our beliefs and passion for the Cloud.7 vision and who has played a big part in making it the place it is today.

Our Istanbul property is just steps away from the Bosphorus and up-and-coming Ataköy Marina, with its restaurants, shops, and beautiful sea vistas – and just a short tram, bus or taxi ride from the heart of Istanbul with all its exciting sights and sounds.  As well as Istanbul having so much fantastic history, we also know it’s one of the most visited cities in the world for its burgeoning cosmopolitan culture with art galleries, designer-boutiques and huge array of tasty street-food, restaurants and buzzing nightlife all within easy reach of our Cloud.7 home!

TTG: Please describe the profile of a Cloud.7 guest?

The Cloud.7 guest is the next-generation of curious, cosmopolitan and connected global traveller; young and young-at-heart, adventurous, spontaneous, sociable, tech-savvy, curious and connected, seeking originality, authenticity, locality, comfort and affordability in the world’s most exciting and up-and-coming destinations.

We know that travellers of today want to visit lesser-known, more adventurous and exciting destinations and not feel like tourists; they want to explore the cities, connect with locals, exchange ideas and get a true sense of what it’s like to live in the city and this is essentially what we are offering; a cosy hub to start their adventure.

TTG: What feeder markets are you targeting to the property?

We’re looking to attract national travellers from within each country as well as international guests from the countries where our hotels will be based and from across Europe. Our concept is suited for both business and leisure travellers as the new generation of traveller has essentially the same need for connectedness and comfort, but with different expectations as to the execution and delivery; which Cloud.7 will be delivering with its inclusive brand concept.