Original Sokos Hotel Kupittaa was only a hole in the ground by the railway station, but Tuija Suominen-Åkerlund still wanted to know where the main entrance would be. Once the entrance’s location was determined, she walked up to Turku Cathedral to ensure that the hotel truly was within walking distance from the city centre. As the Development Director of Travel and Hospitality Industry, she could have simply measured the distance on the map, but making the journey personally shows her dedication to the customer experience.
- No matter which hotel solution or service we were working on, we made the plans and decisions by putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes, Suominen-Åkerlund describes the attitude of her team.
Original Sokos Hotel Kupittaa is now complete. It will be joining Solo Sokos Hotel Turun Seurahuone, Original Sokos Hotel Wiklund, and Radisson Blu Marina Palace Hotel. The renovation of the latter, with its conference and party venue floors, was the first stage in the historically extensive hotel network project of Sokos Hotels Turku. A duration of five years and a budget of a hundred million euros give an idea of the extent of this major project.
- It was exceptional and extraordinary that the hotels were designed and implemented partially at the same time, says Suominen-Åkerlund, smiling.
- Even though it was hectic, the shared schedule helped us focus on the unique identity and strengths of each hotel.
The goal of the hotel project was to strengthen Turku’s appeal as both a leisure travel destination and a destination for meetings and international congresses. Careful research showed that there indeed is demand.
- The hospitality industry follows other industries, which means that we are needed when things are happening in other sectors – whether it’s business travel or leisure. We wanted to do our part in securing Turku’s accommodation capacity and keeping the service selection diverse and attractive.
Authentic urban atmosphere
Tuija Suominen-Åkerlund has years of experience of responsible posts in the hospitality sector, but she also drew on her experiences as a customer for the hotel network project in Turku. The entire hospitality team did the same, since it is the little things that ensure a positive experience for hotel guests.
- Back in the day, I used to travel for business a hundred days a year. That’s when I noticed that if hotel facilities are designed for overnight stays only, busy travellers may not see or experience anything in the city. But if the hotel restaurant also attracts locals, the guests get to experience an authentic and lively atmosphere effortlessly.
The hotels of Turku Cooperative Society and their services are intended for both locals and visitors. For the project in Turku, inspiration was drawn from different parts of Europe. Destinations were compared to the hotels in progress, but good ideas were not copied directly.
- We wanted our hotels to be visual entities that provide interesting experiences, not forgetting functionality.
Suominen-Åkerlund provides an example of functionality: the lighting of a hotel room, which needs to be considered from the customer’s perspective from start to finish – you cannot abandon the customer halfway through.
- Offering various lighting options is important for comfort and mood, but they’re no use if the lighting controls are too complicated or obscure.
Each hotel has its story and identity
When the renovation and construction of Turku Cooperative Society’s hotels started, each hotel was assigned a personality that would make planning easier. Solo Sokos Hotel Seurahuone, designed by Ilmari Ahonen and Erik Bryggman in the 1920s, is today known as “Your Favourite Hotel in Turku” – like a fun godmother whom you love to visit. As for Original Sokos Hotel Wiklund, it is “My Best Friend in Turku,” while Original Sokos Hotel Kupittaa is its area’s beating heart, “Kupittaa United.” Radisson Blu Marina Palace Hotel promises to be the city’s most stylish congress, dinner and party venue with a “License to Thrill.”
- Each hotel has its own identity and story that live and breathe the surroundings, history and atmosphere, Suominen-Åkerlund says.
Solo Sokos Hotel Turun Seurahuone is one of the oldest hotels in Finland, but it should not be mistaken for a museum. The urban, vibrant and joyful boutique hotel is in the middle of the city’s bustle. The stylish, yet relaxed Restaurant Gunnar celebrates local cuisine, and guests are welcome to spend time in both the restaurant and the hotel lobby.
- The lobby is a pleasant place to sit down for a while, even if you’re not a hotel guest.
The understanding of visitors’ needs can also be seen and felt in Seurahuone’s sauna facilities, both of which offer the option of a refreshing cold shower. The women’s side also includes footbaths.
- Not everyone wants to go to the sauna, but they may still want to pamper their body after sitting or standing the entire day. I know that feeling from my business trips, Suominen-Åkerlund says, smiling.
Even though Original Sokos Hotel Wiklund is in the middle of the busy city, the hotel wants to offer its guests the opportunity to relax and calm down.
- Wiklund is an entertainment centre at the edge of the Market Square. The centre itself offers various fun stimuli, so we decided that customers also need a place where they can calm down. That’s why we decorated the rooms with a serene style. This hotel also offers the special opportunity of combining three rooms into one, for a family or a group.
Spectacular urban views from the roof terraces
The goal with the renovated Original Sokos Hotel Wiklund, which is connected to the shopping centre, was to bring the city centre back to Turku. The idea of lively and authentic urban culture is present particularly at Walo Rooftop Bar, which is also frequently visited by locals who wish to show the views to their guests.
- Turku is a city built on hills, and the wide views can be seen particularly from the rooftop terraces of Walo and Kuppis.
Kuppis Rooftop Bar opens up the views above the city on the ninth floor of Original Sokos Hotel Kupittaa. Saunas and a gym with urban views are also located on the rooftop.
- This hotel’s special quality is its location by the motorway at Kupittaa railway station. You can enter the hotel straight from the station, and there’s also a carpark.
The location and accessibility are also reflected in the rooms. Through the QR codes on the map wallpaper, guests can get more information about tourist attractions in Turku.
- The hotel has many rooms that can easily accommodate as many as three adults, which serves the groups visiting Kupittaa – families, sports teams or groups of friends.
Original Sokos Hotel Kupittaa is a long-awaited accommodation service to complement the area’s cluster of universities, research institutes, health services, business and innovative companies.
- There wasn’t much need for meeting rooms, since Joki Visitor and Innovation Centre and the campus of Turku University of Applied Sciences, with their various modern facilities, are already serving visitors.
Skilled personnel meet the customers’ expectations
The hotel building project of Sokos Hotels in Turku will continue for a few years as Radisson Blu Marina Palace is extended. Extensions in the Wiklund block are also being planned.
- Our vision for the future is expanding and developing the commercial activities in the Wiklund Centre. At the moment, we are considering several options, including the extension of Wiklund’s hotel capacity. The project’s progress requires changes to the city’s detailed plan, which will probably take time, but the plans are moving forward, regardless.
The planning of new projects is encouraged by positive feedback from the customers of Seurahuone, Kupittaa and Wiklund.
- I’m extremely happy that hotel guests have commented precisely on the ideas and services that we have designed from the customers’ perspective,” Suominen-Åkerlund says, emphasising the significance of the personnel.
- Good planning can create opportunities, but the success of a hotel is finally determined by the personnel attending to the guests. It’s been a delight to see how the personnel convey the story and identity of each of our hotels. They meet the customers’ expectations – even exceed them.
Text: Merja Kallikari
Photo: Mika Okko