|Letter from Amsterdam: Canals, Coffee Shops and Contradictions.|
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Tuesday, 3rd December 2013
As in Fort Lauderdale, my room overlooks the ocean – only this time, it’s the North Sea and the air is decidedly colder and blustery; I am told this is Holland’s finest beach and I haven’t dared venture out to the sand yet. I do like the contradiction of Christmas trees and beach huts though.
Water, I am told, is in Holland’s DNA – 26% of the their land is underwater. Juis Nijhuis, president and CEO of Amsterdam Schiphol airport, says the desire to explore the world is in Dutch blood and while the past it was about the sea, today it is about airports.
Schiphol handles 51 million passengers and in the next three years, will invest 1.5 billion euros, half a billion more than in the past five years, in ensuring the airport stays competitive and remains the gateway to Europe.
I have to say I was blown away by the premium service I was fortunate enough to receive. As soon as I left the plane, I was whisked off by a tall, dark, handsome stranger, driven to a lounge where coffee and cookies were waiting for me, where I waited while my passport was stamped, my baggage collected and whisked off again by another not-so-tall-this-time man in a black, gleaming limousine … a girl could get used to this kind of service very easily.
Anyway, Nijhuis says Schiphol has its eye on travellers like me “from emerging markete” – that means the Middle East and Asia. I suppose for most of Europe, Asia is still emerging although according to most statistics, it is already the world’s largest travel market.
I took a trip to the city yesterday – how can I come to Amsterdam and not walk this city of canals and coffee shops? And I visited the booking.com office, located right on Rembrandt Square. Now here’s one company I think that does not see Asia as “emerging”, it just sees the world as one destination and one market.
I got a tour from the new Priceline group CEO Darren Huston – it is an impressive building and I like the open concept, especially the brainstorming room on the rooftop (right) – and as I walked around, the notion of “meta-national” came into my mind.
At the WIT Conference, global strategist Parag Khanna had spoken of a new wave of companies that would not be defined by their country of origin but just are...
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