Rick's story


Rick van Erp, our founder and CEO, has a simple vision: to design, build and operate hotels where guests can create memorable stories, where every detail matters, and each location is unique - appealing to both guests and locals. Rick’s first ’story’ for our website shares the learnings from ten years of positive hospitality disruption.

What drives your vision and passion, why do you do what you do?

It was actually at my wedding last year that I realised why I do this: I have a love for conceiving and organising events, places and spaces that give people pleasure: the vision, the detail, the happy faces and the memories - I can't think of anything more rewarding.

What has been your most important lesson?

To reach the standard we set for ourselves, we must carefully select our suppliers/partners and have a hands-on, collaborative approach to drive the best results and outcomes. Only with a relentless pursuit of excellence by everyone can we achieve our dreams. That means being as focused on our three-dimensional world as our 2D. An example is a recent photo shoot in which the 2D planning was robust; however, we discovered that being present (in the 3D) and driving the results made the difference - not least as our hotels are multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experiences.

In your ten years of hospitality, what’s been the most significant disruptive influences?

From the early days of hotels as places to sleep, many developed as places to impress and experience. Today hotels are multi-functional spaces and a hub for all kinds of activities. The obvious eat, work, play and sleep options are now complemented by locations that embrace the arts, hubs for local communities or even entertainment spaces such as cinemas. This is positive disruption and what drives our team: making the most of our properties for guests and local communities. There are challenges to achieving this, for example, the training of our people in their broader roles and how we work with real estate and design partners. This style of disruption and change extends beyond hotels, where care and passion for interior environments influence everything from office space to hospitals. Why should hospitals be places where the aesthetic makes you feel worse?

Another critical area of disruption has been the rise of Airbnb. It's competition without rules - almost a modern-day Wild West! We welcome the competition, although it's our job to ensure the benefits of full-experience operators, facilities, guarantees, standards, service etc, are understood by all our guests - particularly gen Z.

A third disruption has been the way people book with us. In particular, the leading platforms within Europe have successfully disrupted the guest journey. Our response has been and will be to work with platforms and 'follow our guests simultaneously' and encourage direct bookings with value-added benefits.

Finally, technology comes to mind as a key disruptive force. Automation has reduced the guest friction points - although that's a good thing, we also know the power of people and a warm welcome and help when needed.

What brands do you admire?

Four Seasons, especially the resorts - are perfectly executed in design and creative concept. Another example is Mama shelter, as the brand creates an amazing vibe and stand-out place in the market. Outside of hospitality, I like Massarati, the models and the big route tours and Apple, of course, for its simplicity and design.
Making something special is not always expensive, so why should people settle for mediocre? The world is a nicer place to look at if products or buildings look good. At Odyssey, we define this as our passion for Sprezzatura.

How important are people, values and behaviours?

We can only grow our brand and experiences with the right people in place - it's that simple. We need the best people to create our transformation and achieve our vision. When people buy into our mission, our vision and commit to our goals, we can create amazing results. We seek open-minded, committed people who go that extra mile. We are happy we have a lot of the right people. When recruiting, we seek people who share our vision and relish responsibility and freedom to create. Our job is to make these expectations clear to attract the right people and enable and support them to deliver their best.

What does this mean in practice?

It means driving down responsibility to the lowest level: training, empowering and enabling everyone to make our guest experiences amazing. For our HQ teams, this means attractive recruitment advertising that's realistic, ongoing learning and development, and a good cultural fit.

What are you most proud of?

During the tough times, including the global pandemic, we stayed loyal to our key stakeholders and built lasting relationships that endured the ups and downs. I am proud of our team's ability to deliver experiences across a broad brand portfolio - from a funky Moxy to a sophisticated Autograph property. I'm also proud of the people I see in our business who have been with us for a long time, many from the beginning - a true Odyssey family. Finally, I'm proud of the amazing landmark locations we've created from hotel Nassau to Hotel Sapphire and, indeed, every single location.

What challenges are you now facing?

We can not recruit enough people fast enough and increasing costs outside our control. In our control is migrating to an operating model that is good for +30 hotels per year, that is still agile, entrepreneurial and special - watch this space ;)

Finally, why should people want to work at Odyssey?

We'll help you be the best version of yourself.

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