“We want to radiate accessibility”

Written by Esmee Bakker, Fleur Withagen en Naomi de Ridder

Overlooking Amsterdam’s finest and most prestige canal, is the evenly majestic Intercontinental Amstel Hotel. The Dutch flag flutters proudly above the grand entrance, accompanied by a fancy looking door man adorned by a top hat. The hat has been out of fashion since the early 19th century, but here it still functions as a symbol of upper class wealth. To commoners the hotel seems exactly that: an elitist and highbrow place, only accessible to the richest and most fortunate. But is that (still) the case?

After ascending the entrance stairs, the revolving door is being rotated by a porter. “Good afternoon, madam”, he says politely, “how can I be of assistance?”. After taking your coat he takes you to the tearoom. Because of the glass ceiling, it’s very light and spacious, but the deep blue walls and Persian carpet gives it a homey warmth.

Roland Schaap, marketing executive at the hotel, endorses that: “We are a luxurious five star hotel, but we want to be approachable for local people.” Still, dropping by for an afternoon tea or a quick lunch, isn’t something a lot of locals are doing. Only shortly after the opening in 1867 Dr. Johann Georg Mezger, a prominent physiotherapist at the time, started his practice in the hotel. He was the first of a long list of residing stars, such as The Rolling Stones, Rihanna and even Queen Elizabeth – giving the hotel the image of inaccessibility.

In spite of that, the tearoom is filled with a diverse audience. From Chinese tourists with cameras in their hands to elderly dressed as if they’re going to a black tie event. It symbolizes the contradiction of the hotel: egalitarian versus elitist. Still, the staff treats both groups of people no different. Where you would expect condescending looks, you get a polite smile, equal treatment and equal care.

Schaap: “We understand the barrier to enter might be big, but that’s why we’re working hard to radiate more accessibility.” During summer, the Amstel Hotel opens the terrace inviting sunseekers to dock their boat and sit down for a refreshing drink. “We also participate in the Amsterdam Cocktail Week, to show our openness,” he says, “because the Intercontinental Amstel Hotel is for everyone, despite income, welfare or class – and that’s really important.”

Curious about how students see the amstel hotel? Listen here to the podcast ‘InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam: how do students see this luxurious hotel?’