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For the past five decades, the majority of airport hotels around the world have always had a sense of despair and desperation about them.


They’re often seen as a refuge of last resort, filled with forlorn travelers who’ve missed their flights, scheduled late night or early morning meetings, or been waylaid on long layovers. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all tried to forget those experiences for the most part.
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That said, the legacy hotel brands have come a long way in the last decade, building new properties with more natural light, more modern design, better food, and better amenities. But the perception still persists worldwide that most airport hotels will never be more than an unfortunate, unavoidable interruption between point A and B, or a place to have a cheap meeting.

Hilton Worldwide wants to change that perception. It’s trying to reboot the traveling public’s view of its airport properties with a new research paper entitled: “The Rise of The Airport Hotel,” inspired by this month’s official opening of the new Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

Hilton executives are quick to point out that Conrad Hilton opened the first airport hotel in San Francisco in 1959, followed by another airport property 15 days later in New Orleans. It’s a nice bit of storytelling that positions Hilton’s legacy as a pioneer in airport hospitality, and it provides precedence for the company’s recent efforts in developing new airport hotel design, amenity and service standards.

Especially in Europe, Hilton has elevated the airport hotel design experience in anchor locations at Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Munich, which we covered last year, and now Amsterdam, among others.

“Airports are evolving into much more than a transit point, and certainly Amsterdam shows that,” says Shawn McAteer, VP of global brand management for full service brands for Hilton Worldwide. “They’re becoming more of a destination. If you look at Schiphol, the owners of that development there call it an ‘airport city.'”

Hilton’s new research paper is based on an online survey of 5,500 adult travelers in America, Britain, Germany, Holland and China. To be eligible, all participants must have traveled for either business or leisure at least once in the past 12 months and stayed at a full-service hotel.

“The launch of Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol inspired us to better understand past, current and perhaps future perceptions of airport properties, so that’s what led us to developing the paper,” McAteer told Skift. “Airport hotels can be more than airport hotels, and I think we’re redefining what that airport hotel concept can be.”

For example, Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo created the Hilton Amsterdam Airport’s modernist cube structure with a towering central atrium lobby bathed in light, and a facade of diamond-shaped wraparound windows tilted at 45 degrees. Interior designers from London’s HBA group filled the 433 guest rooms and public spaces with an entirely urbane design narrative punctuated with Dutch art and furnishings typical of an upscale Amsterdam canal home.

There is also a full-service eForea spa, which is now a brand standard amenity for new Hilton airport hotels.

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