Interview with Marc Rahola, CEO of OD Group – The Real Sound of the City.
Lee: Good afternoon this is Unity Radio The Real Sound Of The City. We are just past 3 o’clock in the UK and just past 4 o’clock in Ibiza and we are delighted that we are joined by Marc Rahola, who is the CEO and founder of OD Group. We are actually located on the top of the Sky Bar of OD Hotel Talamanca. Good afternoon Marc.
Marc: Hi how are you? Thank you so much for having the facility to talk and chat a little with you.
Lee: Thank you very much for inviting me onto the Sky Bar, it’s fantastic.
Marc: Yes, there is no better place in Ibiza.
Lee: Tell us a little bit about some of the events that you have here.
Marc: It’s about all types of culture events, music events. Also events that involve the neighbourhood. We make workshops of painting and wine. People can be taught here to paint pictures and then have some great champagne or wine or whatever in a fantastic location.
The OD Group
Lee: Just describe OD Group; break it down a little bit.
Marc: OD Group, in fact the name comes from my first hotel, the Ocean Drive Hotel which is a little hotel in Marina Botafoch. It is a 40 room hotel, a very little one. I was inspired by the French way to make hotels. Why? Because when I was young, younger than today I was amazed to see the things in the stores of the airports. One from a hotel in Paris. It was called Hotel Costes. I want to see that hotel. I learn a lot about this type of hotel and I was sure that this might be in Ibiza. It’s a boutique concept and a hotel that is able to open all year round and is able to bring something else as well as just sunshine beaches and so on. Obviously then we make more hotels.
Lee: In the OD Group how many hotels do you have?
Marc: We have got 8 hotels and 5 projects under construction. We have hotels in Ibiza, Majorca, in France next to St. Tropez and in Barcelona.
Lee: Just quickly, I don’t want to labour on too much; you are fighting very hard to keep hotels open, how has covid impacted you?
Marc: I don’t have any idea how it is going to end or be in the next weeks. It is more easy to plan for the next 2 years rather than the next 2 weeks but we are hoteliers and our fight is to keep open. That is our fight every single week. We will go week by week and see how we are able to engage and to make people think that they can have here good leisure. Their health is our priority, that is our mission.
Lee: We are also going to talk about Ryans Hotel Group. Am I right in thinking a TV series was filmed there many years ago?
Marc: Yes also a TV programme, Ibiza Weekender. The very first event at Ryans was to develop something for young people but we didn’t realise that nowadays, you choose when you want to be young. There are people of 50 or 60 years because the Peter Pan ethic is everywhere. People want to be young so at least we have a mix of people from everywhere and all ages. It is incredible they want to be young so it’s an absolutely different experience that we are bringing.
Lee: We can see from the Sky Bar Formentera and you were saying Marc that you can see it perfectly clear today.
Marc: The reason is obviously the dust of the Sahara is in suspension when there is no rain during the summer. When there are 2 or 3 days of rain there is a gleaming of the whole sky and then you are able to see that there is no dust in suspension and it is very clear.
Lee: We are filming it as well so it will be up on line shortly and you can look at the views. We are doing a series called Making Ibiza and part of that is finding out more about the people. Would you like to share your story in terms of what you were doing when you were 16, 17, 18, 19, coming out of college and progress to owning this fantastic hotel?
Marc: Obviously 30 years ago when I was 16 I worked in the summer time in hotels. I was very interested in the music. If I knew that DJ’s these days had the salary that they have I probably would have tried to be a good DJ! I tried my best and tried to play the guitar. I got my own group of rock and roll. We played in the high school; we played in Barcelona, Madrid and other places. We also had a CD. Now I am a hotel owner of a Group. If not I would be a rock and roll star! Let’s say that this engagement with music has been always in my life. My hotels have live music concerts, also electronic music in all the events that I do. It’s something that is in our DNA. It’s something that I grew up with. If I wanted a guitar my father would say, no problem but you earn it and you pay for it. So I worked in hotels and I was able to own my first guitar, so it’s a mix of that.
Challenges of Running a Business in Ibiza
Lee: When you think back over your journey are there any significant events that have been a challenge but you’ve managed to get through it?
Marc: I think the most difficult thing was in the first years, 2006/2007 when I tried my best to open all year round. To open all year round in Ibiza is not so easy. To open in January and February is difficult. From that point we were able to engage events and local events, because DJ’s, artists and so on have to have a place to show their value during the winter time. We started with the Ocean Drive, my very first hotel and from that point and we were able to have a fantastic winter. After 3 years we have got occupancy in the winter time more than 60 percent so it was brilliant.
Lee: Over that period of time of growing your business, what have you been most proud of?
Marc: I was proud of the first thing I had done. I was working in the family business from 1998 until 2008 and I needed to prove myself. I needed to be able to do something with my life, so get to this point has made me very proud. I made the decision to make my own path.
Lee: We interviewed a guy called Thomas Kirk a few weeks ago and he came from a fifth generation family business and I asked him the question, what is it like being the fifth generation? He said it is a lot of pressure because you have people who have come before you and there is this criteria that you have to live up to, so he said a similar type of thing.
Marc: Yes I was working in the Palladium Group for ten years and making expansion in the Caribbean. I was making a lot of things so I was one of the keepers of the company so there is pressure but the more pressure I got made me aware that I was really good at something. So I was asking myself every single day how can I prove myself? So you need to answer this question before you die, you need to know it!
Lee: For those people listening you mentioned the Palladium Group and a hotel which people may know is Palladium Ushuaïa.
Marc: Yes and Palladium have resorts in the Caribbean, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Brazil and other places. I am very proud and will never regret what I have done.
Lee: I am going to ask you now a question that I asked Diego Calvo from Concept Hotels, Marc what in your opinion makes a successful hotel?
Marc: First of all you have to have the passion to design the spaces and the concept that you want to evolve. If you are not able to engage your team on making that path then it is impossible. The more important thing to engage is the common areas and I have such a good team. I put all my effort and discussions and we have a lot of them, into the common areas and sometimes I am so nasty with them because I want everything to be perfect!
Lee: The common areas being e.g. the reception area?
Marc: Yes. I hate offices for the talented people in a hotel. I never understood that the talented people, the manager or whoever – why do we develop offices to hide them from the public and the customers? It makes no sense. So for me there are no offices.
Lee: How do you go on about designing your hotels – what influences do you have?
Marc: Firstly my influence comes from my parents. My mother is in interiors and my father is an architect so from being a child I have been in their offices so I got a special influence from them and the way that they saw the architecture and the interiors. They have a view of a more romantic way. They also like in terms of furniture the Scandinavian concept and the treatment of the spaces in a more minimal way.
Lee: What is it that is most important for you in terms of the customer experience?
Marc: The people that pay more in a hotel are the people that stay the less. The people who pays the less are the people who stay the most in a hotel. If you want to keep your customer happy it’s about treating him well during their stay, not just in the hotel. So if they need a doctor, or something from the pharmacy, being able to help them and make their stay better that is basic for us. Our team are trained in that and we make people feel that is their place, it’s not just a hotel and if they have a problem it can be solved.
Lee: I guess you have an excellent concierge service then. Also I believe there is parking at the hotel?
Marc: Yes, because when you go to Cala Bassa or to Lio or wherever with a friend in the car, then you have to park the car. If you are unable to park your car you waste your time. If you can park the car at the hotel it’s a luxury.
Lee: Where do you live Marc?
Marc: In the centre. My wife prefers to live there. I would like to have a home in the countryside.
Lee: Tell us a little bit about the almond business.
Marc: The almond business was an accident, a very good accident! I am an entrepreneur and it was a big opportunity during the crisis of 2012. We decided to see if we could develop this idea and we made it with 20 hectares. Nowadays we have got 1000 hectares. Nowadays we are one of the 3 or 4 luxury producers of almonds in Europe. We also make potions.
Lee: Well let’s get back to the hotel business. We are here in Ibiza and you have been here for a long period of time, for those who haven’t been to Ibiza before, besides the clubs just describe the other side of the island for us.
Marc: Ibiza has absolutely everything to make it a top destination. It has the best beaches and one of the best is not in Ibiza, it is Formentera. You have the perception that you are in an island and you can go from one side to another to have this perception. Other islands that are bigger you do not have it, like Majorca. It’s only 2 hours from every single big destination so that’s a very important point. Also if we compare with other Balearic Islands you are protected from winds there are lots of places that are absolutely magical in terms of environment, in terms of gastronomic and in terms of culture. In terms of a lot of things. Then we have the fantastic discotheques and the fantastic electronic music.
Setting Up in Business in Ibiza
Lee: What would you say to people listening who are looking to work overseas, coming to Ibiza and setting up a business?
Marc: There a lot of people working in London or Amsterdam from Monday to Wednesday or Thursday and they come here at the weekend. They have the whole family here and they have the best parts of life. They have the work part and then the leisure part here in Ibiza.
Lee: Tell us about the festival. Depending on the situation and how the quarantine goes, there is a festival happening later in October. Can you share that with us?
Marc: It’s one of the very important things that we have done during this lockdown with my good friend Diego Calvo. We were thinking about how we are going to give the message that we are open and what is open. We decided to create a platform and both teams from marketing were working together to bring as many of the islands together to be on that platform. We are combining folk, sports; we are combining public events, private events. Also live music, night life etc. We are trying to join different competitors because you know, when there is a crisis like this there is empathy so the capacity to bring all the people together. It’s important to say we have got local skills and we are open. Everybody is trying to look after clients and this platform allows every single company to bring their events and concepts. Nowadays we have go sixty companies on the whole island and this festival happens in October and November. This has been founded to be forever and forever and we are going to work towards that not just for the last part of the season but also for the beginning of the season. We are talking about April and May for next year too.
Lee: Thank you. Just to finish off the show which is called Making Ibiza, in a nutshell, what would you say makes Ibiza?
Marc: For me it is everything. It’s something incredible; it’s like a phoenix able to rise up from ashes. It is what it is. It is something that is in evolution constantly and reinvented constantly. It brings the best, and sometimes things that are not so good. It is something that is very special for such a little island.
Lee: Thank you very much for joining us and allowing us to host a live radio show on the Sky Bar. This is a fantastic location. Thank you very much.
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno