Stephan Stokkermans, managing director of Huis ter Duin

Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin is located in Noordwijk aan Zee. A hotel with a rich history, prominent guests and a family business through and through. At the helm is managing director Stephan Stokkermans, also known as 'Hotelier of the Year 2019'. Stokkermans came in 28 years ago and the rest is history… Passionate, ambitious and passionate about the cause; MASTERS starts a conversation. Who was his wheelbarrow?Text: Mical Joseph
Image: Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin

What kept you busy in the past?

“I was mainly involved in tennis and football during my teenage years in Tilburg. Particularly with football, I played at Willem II. In addition to my secondary school education, I wanted to work in the catering industry, but this turned out not to be a good combination with football. That's why I stopped top-level sports and developed my increasing interest in the Hotel Management School Maastricht.”

Did your family also work in the catering or hotel industry?

"No not at all. At the time, my family actually wanted me to go to college or study economics. My choice for the hotel school was not in line with their expectations, but I was accepted and have never regretted my choice of study.” 

How did you end up in your current job?

“I did an internship at a company that purchased hotel rooms and organized conferences, which later became Weekendjeweg.nl. I came in as a management trainee and left as deputy director. In 1993 we organized a successful conference in Huis ter Duin. The organization of the hotel was very pleased with this event, so I was offered the position as sales manager. I grabbed this opportunity with both hands and never left. In 1995 I married my wife Marianne, which made me a member of the Huis ter Duin family, the owners. I have been in the role of managing director since 2016, where my role feels more like my hobby than actual 'work'.”

Who was your wheelbarrow?

“During my career I have known three important wheelbarrows. I met Roland Rijpma, the founder of Weekendjeweg.nl, when he was my internship supervisor at Centerparcs. A few years later he started his own business and I did my aforementioned management internship. Roland taught me a new sport, because we were very innovative in the 90s. Our focus then was on automation and as the years progressed, Weekendjeweg.nl became extremely popular.

The role of Marian Noorlander, my predecessor as director, has also been special. I took over from her 23 years after I started at Huis ter Duin. On an international level, Onno Poortier was important to me. As the former CEO of Peninsula Hotels, he put me on the map in the international hotel world. In addition, Onno put me on the board of Preferred Hotels (the marketing organization of Huis ter Duin). He taught me the ins and outs of the luxury 'hotel business' and how things work in a boardroom.”

You have now been in the business for 28 years. What is the big difference between the hotel industry then and now?

“The definition of luxury has been reinvented today. were before luxury hotels mainly very stiff and traditional. In recent years luxury much more contemporary and more of a combination of high touch en high tech. A development that has only been positive for us, with Huis ter Duin acting quickly as a family business. Especially in times like these.”

If we talk about the current corona period: what have you, as managing director of Huis ter Duin, learned in the past period?

“I have noticed that catering and hospitality are definitely one of the most important necessities of life for people. That awareness is good for the profession, because it kept me, as a hotelier, thinking about areas for improvement and developments. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of vulnerability in this industry and last year we had to make a sad decision to let go of a number of colleagues.”

What is your greatest passion in your profession?

“I have been getting up every day for the 'people factor' for 23 years. By this I mean both the guest and the employee. The great thing about people is that now that we are gradually opening again, the energy and atmosphere are returning to the building. Every individual has a story and without people around me I would find this profession much less interesting.”

What has been the biggest learning moment in your career?

“On September 11, 2001, Huis ter Duin hosted a group of forty Americans for a Preferred Hotels conference. Due to the attacks, the group was unable to return to the United States, so they stayed longer in the hotel. This terrible event made me see clearly what role I played as a hotelier in good, but also in bad times: receiving, housing and providing care for guests.”

In 2019 you were named Hotelier of the Year. What is still on your business bucket list to achieve in the hotel industry?

“This renowned award was a very nice confirmation for the entire team. A recognition for our passion, our place in the Dutch hotel industry and for the family business. I am now at a point where I literally and figuratively want to write the next Huis ter Duin book. We are entering a phase where it is time to take the hotel further to greater international allure. The organization spreads this over a number of years with various investments. Huis ter Duin will develop even more, not only in the hotel itself, but also outside.”

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

“Always follow your heart, because if you follow it, you will never have any regrets!”

Have you been a wheelbarrow for someone?

“I enjoy developing and challenging young talent. If I can inspire trainees and employees within our company and help them further in their careers, that is a crowning achievement.”