95 years of Bulsink: from local contractor to leading partner for the hospitality sector
When CEO Antoine Bulsink took over the helm in 1997, the staff employed by the Bulsink construction company consisted of two carpenters and two bricklayers (“including my cousin and my brother”). The ‘Bulsink family’ now has some 100 employees and the family business is considered the preferred partner for finishing and renovation in the hospitality sector.
“The 2008 economic crisis was instrumental in determining the direction we took,” explains Antoine. “Before that time, we used to take on everything. A dormer, a house extension, a shop, an office. The crisis forced us to refocus: where can we really make a difference?”
Experience and branding
This was followed by a few rigorous choices. “No more shell and core work, no more private projects. Only repeat clients. Initially primarily in retail, and soon in other industries where experiences and branding play a role, such as in hospitality.”
Through this strategy, the company managed to attract major brands and land prestigious assignments, such as the recent conversion of the American Hotel in Amsterdam into the Hard Rock Hotel. That came about through a commission by Eden Hotels, a hotel group for which Bulsink has completed several other high-profile projects over the years.
Collaboration with Eden Hotels: ‘all out for the nine’
Ger Klaver, who bade farewell as Technical Director at Eden Hotels this month after reaching retirement age, looks back fondly on his years of collaboration with Bulsink.
“About ten years ago, we started an umbrella project under the slogan ‘all out for the nine’, aiming to improve our ratings on platforms like Booking.com. A few extra tenths of a point on sites like that can make the difference between being booked or not for a certain room rate. So we put all our efforts into that, and Bulsink made a significant contribution through helping us improve our product.”
“In my 30 years at Eden Hotels, I worked with a lot of different contractors, but all of our last hotels were done together with Bulsink. And we will certainly continue working together in the future in the new hotel projects I’m working on now from my own company Klaver Beheer. There’s good reason for that. Their way of managing projects puts them head and shoulders above the rest.”
Reducing construction time
“Look, anyone can hammer a nail in a wall. But they make sure everything is done at precisely the right time, which means they reduce construction time. Because of that, we managed to complete some projects demonstrably faster than any of us had previously thought would be possible.”
“And other projects we managed to deliver on time despite a few unexpected setbacks. Like with the renovation of the ED Amsterdam hotel. While the work was in progress, we found out that there must have been a fire decades earlier in the roof of that building.”
Empty rooms cost money
“That kind of half-burnt roof would normally throw your planning back months, because you have to reinforce the entire structure and install all kinds of fireproofing elements. Because of the way Bulsink handled it, we barely lost any time at all. That’s a very welcome outcome, because every night that a room stays empty costs money. A hotel isn’t a shop where people only come in once you open the doors. The moment we start construction, the rooms go on the market. So on the scheduled completion date, the guests will be standing at the front desk with their suitcases.”
And finally: was it a success with those nine points on the review sites in the end? “Yes, indeed,” laughs Ger. “We had a big celebration of that moment in 2022 during our own 75th anniversary.”