Prominent members of the Auburn community and university stood in the shade of the Hotel at Auburn’s new Porte Cochere Wednesday morning as they sipped on mimosas and coffee.
“When was the last time you went to a ribbon cutting where they were serving mimosas,” asked the Director of Hotel Operations Hans Vand Der Reijden to open his speech.
The ribbon cutting was held to open the newly renovated entrance to the Hotel at Auburn University, something that brings it closer to a “four-diamond” rating. A four-diamond hotel is defined by AAA as a hotel that is “refined, stylish with upscale physical attributes, extensive amenities and a high degree of hospitality,
“Think for the last time you pulled up to a hotel when you were physically in the rain; hotels aren’t built that way anymore,” Van der Reijden said. “Years ago, when we were on our quest for our four-diamond status, we knew that a covered entrance was part of that quest.”
In his speech, Van der Reijden thanked members of the community such as Provost Dr. Tim Boosinger, Chamber of Commerce President Lolly Steiner, Dr. Janaki Alavalapati, dean of forestry and Wendy Peacock, construction project manager.
He recognized members of the Hotels’ staff that had worked there since it opened in 1988, a gesture met with applause from all in attendance.
Van der Reijden then acknowledged Auburn University, thanking them for realizing what a four-diamond hotel would mean for Auburn and explained the vision they had years ago.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t go the conventional way,” Van der Reijden said. “This beautiful glass and steel construction allows plenty of light into the lobby, we preserve the beautiful Japanese maples and it provides a beautiful sense of arrival when you pull up.”
Van der Reijden ended the ceremony by explaining that the Hotel at Auburn had the highest customer satisfaction since he took over in 2003 despite the construction, and it was because of the staff. He thanked the bellmen specifically, calling them the “true heroes of this renovation” and allowing them to run through the ribbon that he and Mayor Hamm held.
Sam Brandon, one of the bellmen, described his position and its importance to the hotel.
“We are the face of the hotel, people come to us,” Brandon said.
Van der Reijden says students like Brandon who work at the hotel
“We are partners in the hospitality management program at the University,” Van der Reijden said. “To have a hotel that has just been upgraded to this level and to be able to say that you worked at a four-diamond hotel just adds a lot of value to your resume.
Van der Reijden also mentioned other partnerships with the University like the School of Horticulture and their work on the herb garden at the hotel, the school of architectural design and their help on renovations to the conference center, and the school of veterinary medicine and their designs for pet-friendly rooms.
“The hotel is such an integral part of the University," Van der Reijden said.