Oh Woah It’s The PURO: the Polish hotel brand taking the world by storm
In the hospitality sector the world over, talk of a revolution has not been an idle exaggeration. Far removed from the bland, beige chains that once dominated the market, a new wave of hotels is rewriting the rule book and transforming the way we stay. In this, Poland has not been exempt, with the country proving to be more than just a microcosm of the industry but also an incubator for fresh, new ideas.
Fusing on-edge technology with design-led aesthetics, the PURO hotel group has emerged from the pack to become one of the most unique and recognizable brands in the country. But more than just a domestic leader in terms of stylish originality, this rapidly expanding group has redefined the market and, in the process, earned international plaudits with the boldness of its vision.
“We’ve introduced a new way of thinking by creating a family of neighbourhood destinations that all have their own strong personality,” says Rune Askevold, the CEO of PURO Hotels. “Welcoming to both travellers and locals alike, each hotel we have has been created in cooperation with local architects, passionate international designers and talented Polish artists.”
Inspiring, innovative and dynamic, PURO have come far since debuting in Wrocław in 2011. From modest beginnings, the brand has developed quickly. “We started out with 102 rooms in Wrocław,” says Małgorzata Jankowska, PURO’s Head of Marketing, “but now have 1,093 rooms in seven hotels. When Wrocław opened, 11 people were onboard working in the hotel with both the restaurant and the housekeeping outsourced. Today, we’ve got around 700 people in all our hotels.”
Visitor numbers, too, have hit dizzy heights. From 35,281 guests recorded in 2012, the previous year saw 306,778 users bed down inside a PURO. With a new hotel planned for Katowice, and further addresses to be added to their existing presence in Wrocław and Warsaw, that figure is set to rise even higher.
Along the way, the concept has been tweaked with PURO’s flexible model enabling the brand to respond to fluctuating trends and user demands. “A lot of hotels invest in the ‘design-experience’,” says Jankowska, “but we have the advantage of not being held back by a chain’s rules – we’re very independent and can take quick decisions.”
That much is apparent by a change of strategy that has allowed PURO to climb to the next level. “When we originally launched, we saw Wrocław as a technologically advanced, design-led, self-service hotel – we didn’t even have a restaurant in place,” continues Jankowska. “The introduction of tablets to control everything in the rooms was a gamechanger, and this novel approach saw us gain a lot of interest among travellers seeking a modern hotel experience. The brand began to evolve, we paid attention to the needs of our guests and reacted to global trends.”
The addition of highly chic, on-site restaurants and bars became key to the progress, as did upgrades to older hotels to make them fall into line with more recently completed projects in Łódź, Warsaw, Gdańsk and Kraków Kazimierz. “Wrocław went through a major renovation at the start of this year,” says Jankowska, “and we’re currently working on changing our Kraków Old Town location. We remain playful, but we’re definitely a more sophisticated brand nowadays; likewise, we’ve become even more art and design-oriented than ever before.”
The latter is a point worth dwelling on. Hailed for their appearance, PURO’s hotels exude a cosmopolitan vibe that feels deliciously engaging. “Design, design, design, art, art, art – these are core pillars of our philosophy,” says Jankowska. Employing a dedicated art collection curator to pool works from local and continental talent, each room, suite and public space comes decorated with personally selected, contemporary visual art. In Warsaw’s case, that means the minimalist sketches of Michał Loba, the illustrations of Tymek Jezierski, a cheeky pink neon interpretation of the Warsaw mermaid by Maurycy Gomulicki, and a surrealist metal installation from Tomasz Kowalski. Complimenting them, Nicolas Grospierre’s stunning images of the capital’s modernist landmarks, as well as photographs by Paweł Fabjański that explore the intersection of human needs and urban psychology.
With bars, restaurants and reception often merging as one to create a seamlessly organic living space, the effect of entering a PURO is striking: more like falling into the pages of a design magazine than entering a hotel. Vibrant and energetic yet also blissfully laidback, it’s this inimitable atmosphere that has gained them a cult reputation as an on-trend brand. Aiding that perception comes the fact that each location feels fundamentally different in both looks and character.
“We don’t copy and paste, our hotels are siblings, not clones,” stresses Jankowska. “Each hotel is an individual, and while they share DNA we’d never describe ourselves as being a chain – every project is a one-off with each hotel separately designed by a different team. If there’s an underlying narrative, it’s the hospitality, the special sense of place and the memorable experiences that each provide. We’re a forward-thinking hospitality brand that offers a design-led stay that doesn’t compromise on local culture or creativity.”
Working with globally renowned architectural and design studios such as New York’s Avroko, London’s DesallesFlint and Conran + Partners, it’s little wonder that PURO star frequently in influential titles such as Condé Nast, Wallpaper* and Dezeen. But while cooperation with these big names has naturally drawn the headlines, it’s the details that have caused the public to become so emotionally attached to the brand, as too has their unwavering commitment to the promotion of Poland.
“Being local and being Polish are important elements of our existence,” says Jankowska. “Our hotels are always in central locations and we invest a lot in connecting our guests to the authentic heartbeat of the city by bridging local values with international hospitality trends. We want our guests to be familiar with a city, and as such right now we print a map of Warsaw restaurants and hotspots as recommended by leading food writers. Elsewhere, designers such as Zofia Chylak and Ania Kuczyńska have boutiques in our locations in Poznań and Kraków Kazimierz, and we’ve also expanded our collaboration with Poland’s most historic cosmetics company, Alba 1913, so that these amazing people supply all of our rooms with their natural cosmetics.”
Ultra-cool but reassuringly familial, a combination of these factors has served to elevate PURO to the status of lifestyle choice, with its popularity extending beyond guests alone. “It’s for everyone,” says Jankowska, “we’ve created a community of people who like to spend time with us and I think you can see that by the success of the Loreta bar and Magari restaurant in Warsaw – all of a sudden, residents of the capital who have stayed with us elsewhere are visiting our Warsaw food and drink choices because they want to spend time in a PURO in their own city. That’s obviously brilliant to hear!”
But what’s been good news for PURO has been better news for Poland. Showcasing the best the country can offer to an ever-growing international audience, PURO has come to stand for all that the country shows signs of becoming: future-thinking and leading-edge. “And it’s all been created in Poland!” adds Rune Askevold. “We’re confident about what we are doing and we want to demonstrate to the world that this country can deliver fantastic hospitality.” This, most would argue, has already been accomplished.