Last March, during the Nuclear Security Summit, President Obama chose to stay at Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk. How exciting for a hotel manager. I talked to commercial director Stephan Stokkermans about this very special guest.
Stephan Stokkermans (left) and United States Secretary of State John Kerry (right)
The Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin was chosen to be the residence of the U.S. President during the NSS. How did this decision come about?
The organisation of the NSS was in the hands of the Dutch government in general and the ministry of foreign affairs in particular. They booked approximately 8,000 rooms for all delegations. The embassy of America explicitly picked the Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin based on location, capacity and quality of the rooms and halls.
How much preparation time did it cost from the beginning to the actual visit?
During the first quarter of 2013 the selection of hotels was made. From September on we drafted plans along with the embassy and the White House.
Did President Obama comment on his stay at Huis ter Duin?
Both President Obama and state secretary Kerry were very enthusiastic about the hotel. In particular, they found the facilities and location to be very impressive. In fact, the seaside setting reminded them of Cape Cod.
What are the differences between hosting a delegation and “any other group”?
The Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin has a rich history hosting international meetings of multinationals, the European Union and NATO. Those meetings are attended by several delegations and they come with an extensive conference program. In this situation, the focus is on the temporary residence of a head of state and his support services. Which was reassuring, but given the importance of the delegation we did feel a serious amount of pressure.
What were the biggest changes you had to make for safety or comfort?
The greatest challenge was to create additional offices for support services for the White House. Next to that there were, of course, additional security measures taken by the Dutch government to ensure the safety of the American delegation.
What kind of food did you serve President Obama?
One of the fun parts was the initiative of our chef Marcel van Lier, awarded with a Michelin star, to serve some exciting amuses with a typically Dutch touch.
What have you learned from this experience?
Each and every event inspires us to continue to improve our services and facilities. One of the enduring improvements we have made was definitely the ICT structure of the hotel so we can better respond to requests from large numbers of users.
If you could choose one famous person you would like to welcome to your hotel in the future, who would that person be?
For sure, welcoming none other than the President of the United States is a highpoint for every hotelier. We feel even more connected with the United States through our membership of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. However, regardless of which guest we welcome or whatever their positions or nationalities may be, we’d be determined to exceed expectations.