A successful hotel is a meeting place where foreign tourists and business travellers mingle with local residents. Where pleasure-seekers in the bar are mixed with entrepreneurs en route from the hotel’s coworking hub.
This is the conception of Eva Kalling Hansson, CEO of Strand Hotel in Stockholm, who believes in mixing people as much as possible.
”This is the place where conversation starts”. This is Eva Kalling Hansson’s motto for Radisson Blu Strand Hotel:
“We want to have an exciting mix of locals and hotel guests here. As a hotel guest you don’t want to feel like a tourist, you want to meet the locals. And as a Stockholmer, it is stimulating to meet people from other parts of the world, both business people and tourists. It is a rewarding exchange which promotes the flow of ideas.”
After seven years as the venerable hotel’s CEO, Eva Kalling Hansson has initiated Strand’ biggest remodelling since the 1980s.
“It is wonderful to have the opportunity to be involved in developing this superb old hotel,” she says, “I am a creative person who likes changes.” Nothing could be better.
The hotel opened in 1912 in connection with the Olympic Games in Stockholm and reigns supreme in a building dating from the same year. With its distinct design, equipped with a tower, it is something of a landmark on Nybroviken’s southern quay.
Around 150 million is being invested to restore the hotel’s former splendour. The aim is for the Strand to continue to be a more personal alternative to the capital’s flagship, Grand Hotel, and to resume its place as one of the city’s most popular watering holes. In Strand’s early years its annexe was the hottest place in town, with guests from the Royal Dramatic Theatre just over the bay among others. Over the years, the hotel has had celebrity guests such as Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, Roger Moore and Lady Gaga. And in 1968 Stockholm’s first fashionable night club opened here under the management of Alexandra Charles. Strand was also first in Sweden to serve brunch in the late-1980s.
EMPHASISE THE ORIGIN. The architects at
Inside Wingårdhs are behind the elegant new urbane interior design, in collaboration with Senab. Eva Kalling Hansson’s requirement was to emphasise the hotel’s origin and simultaneously add a modern feel.
“The hotel environment is naturally extremely important when guests are selecting hotel, but the overall experience is so much more. Our team is always focused on creating memorable moments for the guests. Our unbeatable location is also a competitive advantage for us,” she says, gesturing with her hand towards the large windows with a view out over Nybroviken’s
picturesque Waxholm boats.
Eva Kalling Hansson has a long career in the hotel industry behind her. Having been educated as a market economist and with a short detour into the office world, she has been faithful to the sector. Hotel after hotel is opening in Stockholm. It seems that it will never come to an end. What is her view of the competition?
ATTRACTIVE DESTINATION . “Every time it happens, I think, how is it going to end up? Will the flow of guests fall due to the increased selection? But it never does. On the contrary, oddly enough. More restaurants and hotels are clearly making Stockholm more attractive as a destination.
One of the elements she focuses on in order to hold her own in the competition is coworking, i.e. opening the hotel as a workplace for entrepreneurs and small companies, often startups, which do not want to commit themselves to a fixed office with a long lease. There is a major trend for coworking in our digitalised era, with mobility, the sharing economy and networking as guiding principles. Office space that is based on membership with more or less short leases are popping up everywhere, but lots of cafés and hotel lobbies are also offering coworking, through facilities such as free wifi, bookable meeting rooms and a pleasant environment for hospitality.
COWORKERS ARE WELCOME . “Working life is changing, technology is making us mobile and there is an increasing demand for meeting places where you don’t meet the same people all the time,” Eva Kalling Hansson observes, continuing:
“We have a long table inside the reception area with room for twelve people with all types of connection. A network of entrepreneurs meets here every Thursday. Further in we have four meeting rooms in different sizes. We welcome both hotel guests and coworkers to sit here, in the lobby, the bar or the restaurant with their laptops, we have free wifi everywhere.”
“We will be opening a more orthodox coworking space called The Attic towards the summer when refurbishment of the tower has been completed. We have already been in touch with Forsbergs design school and are hoping to attract young entrepreneurs and startups, gladly from the outskirts of town.”
BREATH OF FRESH AIR. The fact that local residents are increasingly finding their way to hotels does not just apply to Stockholm, it is an international trend. She points out:
“The hotel focuses more on personality, design, interior design, coworking, eating-places and cultural experience of different kinds. We want to make the Strand a place that Stockholmers are happy to visit. Hotels are exciting places, where you often find the best restaurants and bars, sometimes even exhibitions and performances of different kinds, concerts for example.”
“And if some people also come here to work or for a meeting, the hotel guests have a more genuine experience. And as a Stockholmer you get a breath of fresh air from the outside world. Swedish clientele encountering foreigners, work encountering leisure time. In other words, a good mix on all levels.”
EVA KALLING HANSSON
CEO of Radisson Blu Strand Hotel
since 2010, one of Stockholm’s most
legendary and exclusive hotels.
Fundamentally a market economist.
Has a long career within the hotel
trade behind her, both internationally
and nationally, including within sales
and revenue management. She is
married and has two children, aged
17 and 20.
9 QUICK QUESTIONS
Brasserie or bistro?
Wine or cocktail?
– Wine. Preferably Chablis.
Mac or PC?
Twitter or Snapchat?
Beach or city?
Boutique hotel or Ritz Carlton?
– Boutique hotel. Otherwise a favourite is Soho House,
which has establishments in many cities throughout the world.
Sofa or gym?
– Sofa, unfortunately.
Car or bike to work?
– Bike. I live quite close to the hotel. Too close, according to my husband.
Cinema or theatre?
– Cinema. But preferably TV series, most recently I devoured The Crown.
TEXT: TOVE GYLLENSTIERNA
PHOTO: JASON STRONG
This article was originally published in Reflections #1 2018