A passionate runner and golfer who loves going on long walks – especially at the different Vienna House destinations. As Chief Operating Officer, Martin Ykema is on the road a lot and can look back on an exciting, international career…
How time flies! Mr. Ykema, you have been Chief Operating Officer since 2013. Could you briefly tell us how your career got started?
My career in tourism began at Hotelschool Den Haag, one of the best tourism schools there is. After that, I got my first professional experience at Holiday Inn Crown Plaza in Amsterdam. From there it was on to General Manager at Novotel in Maastricht and then back to The Hague to Mercure, also as General Manager. I then slowly started to feel the urge to spread my wings and so I accepted an offer to go to New York. As General Manager of Novotel New York, directly on famous Times Square, welcoming the millennium year 2000… that was quite a unique experience, as you can imagine.
And where did your career take you after New York?
[smiles] Europe cast its spell on me again – or rather, it was the golden city of Prague. Among other things, I opened the first Novotel in Prague and stayed there until the end of 2004.
After several years in Poland – where I was in charge of 18 hotels and even described myself as a professional truck driver, given the distances I covered there – I moved to Germany. Here I worked as Area Manager for Lindner Hotels. At the start of 2013, I received the offer from Vienna House. That was perfect, because I wanted to continue to work internationally. A lot has happened since I got here. You’ve heard of our rebranding? As of 1 February, we are doing business under the new name. What an exciting project! And the good thing is: it’s just as much fun now as it was on my first day.
Can you tell us what is the most fun for you in your current position as COO?
There’s so much. But above all the employee development, the knowledge transfer and the varied portfolio. I have worked in most of the countries where we have hotels, and I can use that experience – my good understanding of the regional and cultural differences – to my benefit. Especially rewarding is when well thought-out ideas finally bear fruit and you can actively influence the development.
How do you fill up on new energy when you aren’t busy travelling for your job?
[laughs] Thank God I have hobbies that you can do almost anywhere. I’m a regular morning jogger and have already run several marathons. I’ve been a regular golf player since 1997 and am constantly trying to improve my game. You can often find me at Süßenbrunn Golf Course at the edge of Vienna – together with my wife and my dog. Since “going to the dogs” last year, long walks with our darling Feta have become a must. And working in the garden of our house in Vienna is a perfect way to relax.
When it’s time for a holiday, where do you go?
Off the bat, I would say to Andalusia and the Costa de la Luz. It’s got it all: beautiful beaches, fantastic cities, friendly people and interesting golf courses. What more could you want!
…and for a holiday at a Vienna House hotel?
If you’ve never been to Poland’s Amber Coast, then you’ve got some catching up to do. And Vienna House Amber Baltic Miedzyzdroje is located directly by the sea. Sandy beaches for long walks, Austrian pastries and cakes in the Viennese Café and Wolin National Park with its running trails, where you are truly completely alone and can even see a bison or two… all of it just a stone’s throw from Germany. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t come back home (or the work) fully relaxed from here.
Thank you for the interview!