Running a Hotel in Ibiza - Interview with Diego CalVo, Owner of Concept Hotels
In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to Diego Calvo, Owner of Concept Hotels about running a hotel chain in Ibiza as part of our Making Ibiza series.
Interview with Diego Calvo, owner of Concept Hotels Group – The Real Sound of the City.
Lee: Good afternoon this is Unity Radio The Real Sound Of The City and this is the Logros Show. We are broadcasting live from Hotel Paradiso and we have a very special guest joining us. We have Diego Calvo who is the founder and owner of Concept Hotels here in Ibiza. Good afternoon Diego.
Diego: Good afternoon and thanks for having me here.
Lee: Thank you for letting us come into your hotel, it’s fantastic. We are here in reception and we are in a glass bedroom.
Lee: Tell us about the idea behind this bedroom.
Diego: We opened the hotel in 2018 and Paradiso is an art hotel. Apart from having the gallery we have sixty artists, one in each room. We wanted to do something that brings an impact in the lobby so we were thinking about different types of ideas. We are making a human performance and we created a cube where you can find the bed where we are sitting, the table. The bathroom is close. We allow people to stay for free one night and you can book on our website. Also we use the room for different types of artists to do micro residences and things similar to what we are doing now.
Lee: So people have to sign a waiver don’t they that they will allow to be filmed when they come in?
Running Hotels in Ibiza & Concept Hotels
Lee: Tell us about the business – Describe Concept Hotels.
Diego: Well Concept hotel Group is as the name says a conceptual group of hotels. I created the company in 2013 with my good friend Tallyn which is my only partner and we run the business together. We had a big person for the music and we had a big person for the island of Ibiza because we both work here on the island. We wanted to create something different so in Ibiza at the time most of the hoteliers and promoters were doing very similar things in terms of design and in terms of activities. We started with Santos which is the first hotel. We called it Santos because in Ibiza the villagers have saints like San Antonio, San Jose, and Santa Eulalia so it was our way to connect our passion for music with the island. So each room is having a different experience from a different musical star. So you can stay at the George Michael Suite and it explains how he recorded Club Tropicano video at Pikes. You can stay at the Nina Hagen room and it explains to you her wedding in Ibiza, punky wedding of three days. So it’s different types of experiences. So that was the first hotel. That’s how we started with Concepts.
Lee: So can you tell us the hotels that you’ve got in Ibiza. So you have, Santos, Paradiso?
Diego: I’ll tell you chronologically! So first one was Santos, then we opened Tropicana which is in Playa d en Bossa. Then we opened Dorado also in Playa d en Bossa. Then Cubanito in Cala Gracio, Paradiso and we just opened Romeo’s which is next door to where we are now. We opened a couple of weeks ago. That will be hotel number six.
Lee: I think I have been to Tropicano in Playa d en Bossa. They are all quite similar styles aren’t they in terms of very colourful, very bright?
Diego: Yes we decided to keep a fresh design and architecture and be different to what you could find in Ibiza. Tropicano, it seems like you are in the south of Miami. It’s very similar with the buildings at Ocean Drive. It’s actually a concept that’s in relation to cocktails. Every room is having a different tropical cocktail name and we have a shower in the pool that is like a martini cup and water comes out of the straw. You can make your own cocktail in the room also.
Lee: What were you doing before you got into the hotel business? What were you doing when you were younger?
Diego: Well I was an accident I think! I had long hair, skates, bicycle and looking for girls! I got very early into hospitality. I was seventeen actually when I went to Majorca to study hotels. I had always been involved between hotel business and music.
The Journey To Hotel Ownership
Lee: Were you working before you set up your own business?
Diego: I did hotel management at university in Majorca. Then I did a master also for hotel management in Barcelona. As I said at the beginning I was always working in all types of jobs from night reception, in the kitchen, breakfast, room service, reception everything you can imagine. I was working for different hotel groups, working in London, Hilton, and Marriott. In 2005 I remember I broke up with my girlfriend and by coincidence I was living in Barcelona. I got a call from an hotelier here in Ibiza and he offered me a job as a manager. So I said that is my time to go and come back to my place, to my island. So I came back and was working for around seven years in that hotel chain and then with my friend Tallyn who was at the time was one of the directors, we both got very stressed in our jobs and we decided to start our own business. So that was my background and always at the same time I was doing work for hotels. I was always involved in the music. I have my event on the island which has been running for fifteen years. It’s called Rock Nights and happens weekly at Hotel Pikes for the last seven years and it’s our home and we are going to be there in the future if they allow us to continue doing night life.
At the beginning I was always working in all types of jobs from night reception, in the kitchen, breakfast, room service, reception everything you can imagine. I was working for different hotel groups, working in London, Hilton, and Marriott.
Lee: Tell us about your inspiration musically?
Diego: Since I was sixteen, seventeen years old I was listening to rock music. At the time more into the nineties, listening to Nirvana, Offspring. When I went to university I got my long hair, English – broken! I always listened to guitar sounds actually. My inspiration is not only from the music but also from eighties movies, classic cars, salvage architecture, mid- century Palm Springs, Pre-America, I’ve never been there, never been to the USA.
The Challenges of Running a Successful Hotel
Lee: In your opinion what makes a successful hotel?
Diego: I think first off everything should be – do it with passion because without doing things from the heart it’s very difficult that they will remain for a time. I think that’s very important. Also it’s very important to create a product that is different and is not standard because nowadays in other sectors not only the hotel industry, you need to create products and brands that are having a strong personality and a concept and a story behind it. That would be my tip for running a hotel.
Lee: Besides the covid crisis, in a general year what are your main challenges that you find running five hotels? It’s a big operation.
Diego: Well we are more that hotels where you go to sleep, have breakfast and have a swim. In our hotels you get an experience and you can have something very different in terms of where you stay and the design of the hotel. Also the content we provide to the hotels. We have what we call a cultural agenda. We have different events that we create like concerts, cinema, salsa classes, and aerobics – Jane Fonda style. Apart from the normal operations it is a challenge. We care a lot about the content happening in the hotels and the design of the hotels.
Lee: What percentages of your customers are from the UK?
Diego: In a normal year we will have around fifty five percent from the UK which is a very big percentage. Also our hotels are boutique hotels so not very big. We have from forty to sixty rooms at the moment; maybe in the future we will do something a bit bigger. The UK customers they book earlier maybe than the Spanish or Italian.
Lee: Is it like in January, February?
Diego: Yes in January we have more bookings come in.
Lee: Yes people looking forward to a holiday.
Diego: Yes after Christmas.
Lee: What kind of experience do you want to give customers?
Diego: Two or three types. One is a good service experience from our staff in a place where you can have the most facilities as possible. Another will be the small details which you will find through your stay for example at Hotel Dorado you have a card which is on vinyl with the name of the room. Every room at Dorado is like a golden record chunk. Also small details like a microphone in the shower. All these small details you can find in the hotels will be one of the experiences we want to provide. The third one will be the content of what happens like the bingo or drag queen or karaoke or the aerobics I was telling you about. So different types of experiences actually.
Lee: What would you say is the most important thing for you as the founder, as to how the customer feels?
Diego: The most important from the vision of the client? Well the experience in general, that it has been positive and that they appreciate and see what we are doing with the details of everything.
Lee: In terms of covid how have you adapted the business?
Diego: Yes, big changes, new things going on. We have had to adapt our business to the measures from the Spanish government. We have different types of measures. One is for normal hotel operations like cleaning the room. Wearing the mask in communal areas, distance at the restaurant with the tables. Not having big groups of people staying in the place and other measures for the events that we do. We are not a hotel company that does parties like Ushuaia or other places on the island. We do cultural events, like open cinema. We do concerts for around four hundred people, now with the distances it goes from four hundred to two hundred or less. Basically we have been very strict with all our employees to have secure hotels. We have had a covid inspection the other day and we didn’t get any penalty so that means we are doing the things correctly. Normally you get penalties for everything when you get an inspection, but when you are doing things nicely everything will be correct. Everything was correct.
Basically we have been very strict with all our employees to have secure hotels. We have had a covid inspection the other day and we didn’t get any penalty so that means we are doing the things correctly.
Planning for the Future
Lee: What are your plans for 2021, how do you see things looking?
Diego: Hopefully we are going to get a solution soon in terms of medicine and we will be able to be in a similar situation, I don’t think we will be the same anymore but we can be similar. We are planning to open all our hotels in April next year and we are actually having a lot more sales now in comparison to the same day last year. Obviously you don’t know what is going to happen about bookings but at least it’s looking good for next year.
Lee: So everybody is booking for next year now?
Diego: A lot of people who had booked for 2020, they changed the booking to 2021, plus the new bookings. So hopefully we will have three times more.
Lee: Across the staff who works here what percentage are English?
Diego: I don’t have so many; I would love to have some more employees from the UK. If you have a nice attitude, talk a bit of Spanish, – I don’t need perfect Spanish but a bit, good attitude and you are interested in music and art, fashion and cinema, the things we like – the door is open!
Lee: Where would people go to find out about employment opportunities?
Diego: On our website. Contact the hotel group which is firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure also you find a place to stay on the island because that is the most difficult to be honest, it’s not easy. So if you get the place on the island, nice attitude, bit of Spanish contact me.
Working On Ibiza
Lee: In terms of advice when someone is looking to come to Ibiza to work, when would you say is the best time to start looking for accommodation if that’s the main priority?
Diego: I would say middle of February, beginning of March because there are not many places available and the prices are not very attractive to be honest. The sooner the better.
Lee: Oh I’ve just had a text from my mother who is listening; she’s saying he is very interesting!
Diego: I’m sure she will come and visit soon. We will invite her for a coffee or a drink.
Lee: For those who have never been to Ibiza, can you describe the island?
Diego: I think Ibiza is very particular because it is not very big and different things happen. It’s very active in terms of things happening in relation to art, fashion, in relation to music especially. Also it’s a place where you can meet the best people and the worst people! You can find all types of people and a lot of interesting people, a lot of artists and bohemian and maybe you will meet some people you will not meet in another place. At the same time I think it is a beautiful place where you can find an amazing beach with such clear water, amazing landscapes and a nice place to see the sunset. That’s why I want to stay here forever.
Lee: What is your favourite thing to do when you are not working?
Diego: I spend a lot of time with my daughters and with my girlfriend also. I have the opportunity to have a nice swim on the beach or escape to Formentera which is the island next door.
Lee: Can you describe the feeling that Ibiza gives from being here?
Diego: It’s a place where everything can happen. A lot of people arrive at the island and they don’t want to leave, never! It’s very magic; it’s a big touch of happiness, fresh, summer and shiny!
I think Ibiza is very particular because it is not very big and different things happen. It’s very active in terms of things happening in relation to art, fashion, in relation to music especially.
Lee: Formentera which you mentioned before is very easy to get to by boat?
Diego: Yes takes half an hour.
Lee: How do you think Formentera is different to Ibiza?
Diego: Ibiza is a bigger island and it is more active in terms of things happening. Formentera is more quiet.
Lee: Obviously it has been difficult for the UK tourists to come to Ibiza but if the quarantine is lifted and things change Diego, just share with us what is happening in terms of the end of the season.
Diego: I have actually been working together with another friend and hotelier. He is called Mark Rahola who is CEO Founder for OD Group. Actually during quarantine we had this idea to extend the season with a festival. It’s a forty five days festival called Ibiza Festival Calendar and you can check it online. The idea was to get as much private companies as possible and motivate them to create content for the end of the season, October, November. It goes from 2nd October to 16th November. We are at the moment having more than one hundred events; different types of events because night life here is difficult. You can find fooding events, sport, music, cultural so many types of events that makes Ibiza more attractive during low season. The idea is work together with the council of Ibiza and we are expecting confirmation of the board in the next week. Hopefully we are going to be working together in this project and the idea is that it remains for future years, so not only for this year. We are planning to do the same thing that we are doing in October, so for March and April. So it’s like Ibiza festival OffSpring/OnSpring, this is how we call it. Hopefully it works and it makes Ibiza a better destination.
Lee: How did you come up with the inspiration for the ideas?
Diego: Actually it was at the beginning of the quarantine. Some of the directors of the association of hoteliers in Ibiza had this movement called #moveyourspring which was to try to change bookings for spring to the end of the season. Then it was different types of working groups coming into the association so we took the project Mark and I Ibiza festival calendar because it was an idea that we both had and we work with our teams. So hopefully it works but we need a bit of support now.
Lee: What key attributes do you believe an entrepreneur has?
Diego: I would say being passionate about everything you do, be different and be a bit of a rebel!
Lee: That’s great. Passion is always the one that comes up every time when we speak to different entrepreneurs. On a day to day basis how do you stay motivated?
Diego: With music, a lot. One of the first things I do when I wake up is I listen to music all the time. So I think music is one of my motivations. I motivate by creating new hotels like bands do with new records.
Scaling Up A Hotel Chain
Lee: What is the big vision, the longer term plan?
Diego: Our idea is to open another hotel in Ibiza. Also we are planning to start in the cities with Lifestyle hotel bands similar to what Soho House or the standard hotels are but also make a difference to the cities.
Lee: Which cities?
Diego: First Madrid but once we open in Spain we will be open to new destinations.
Lee: What is the one thing that makes Ibiza for you?
Diego: If I could choose one sentence, I would say that Ibiza allows you to be the person you want to be.
Lee: Thank you very much Diego. You have a fantastic hotel here. Any last words about the business?
Diego: I would say that Ibiza is the best destination in Europe for many reasons and we are here ready to welcome you.
Lee: Thank you very much.
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno
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