Lee Dinsdale interviews Victor Guasch & Philip Gonda, founders of Atzaró
Lee: We are live here from Atzaró Beach Club which is in the North East of Ibiza and it is in a beautiful setting. We are restarting the Making Ibiza Series and each week on the Logros Show we invite business owners, entrepreneurs, people from health and wellbeing. Today we are speaking with the founders of one of the nicest hotels in Ibiza called Atzaró Hotel, it is part of the Atzaró Group and we have just come down to the Beach Club to have a chat to the guys.
Lee: Philip, tell us about the Atzaró Group. How did it start?
Philip: Yes with pleasure, as I said before it started around 2004 and we have been growing since then heavily because we saw what the clientele wanted and we just grew with the clientele. After that we went into restaurants as well so we started with 2 restaurants on the beach, the Atzaró Cala Nova and the Atzaró Chiringuito and then we added another one which is mostly a vegetarian restaurant in the middle of the island close to a little village called Sant Miquel. Then we went on internationally; Indonesia where we built this amazing 55 metre wooden boat; 600 tonnes of wood, all done by hand – an amazing project; that took about 2 years . Then we jumped to Cape Town one of my favourite places and we built a beautiful 1,000 sq. metre house in Capetown which is called The Residence by Atzaró and then we are thinking in the future very soon of opening a 50 key luxury hotel, just like Atzaró a natural luxury hotel in Bali, Indonesia and going forward from that we might be going to Tulum, Mexico with a 140 key hotel – also natural luxury.
Lee: Wow, so very , very busy? We’ll get into the motivation and what drives you from an entrepreneur perspective soon but I want to ask for everybody coming over from the UK and I see this quite a lot, you mentioned Chiringuito. What actually is and what is the definition of Chiringuito for people coming over who want a drink and something to eat?
Philip: Chiringuito is really the concept of the Spanish beach without which it would not be a really beach so most Spanish beaches have a small restaurant with your feet in the sand and that’s what we call a Chiringuito.
Lee: What do you like most about going down to the Chiringuito’s?
Philip: Simplicity, humbleness, freedom. Everything is so simple and people are not stuck up; people are feeling free and just the simplicity of it; good food, reasonable price , just go down and hang out there.
Lee: So everybody coming over to Ibiza or Spain check out the Chiringuito’s. I’ve been down to a few in the afternoon and it’s brilliant. Victor, you mentioned before about the hotel was a 250 year old farm, Philip said. You were born in the farm, what is the family history going from owning a farm and then going into a hotel; was it generations?
Victor: The farm has been in the family for the last 8 generations and has always been an agricultural farm with 130,000 sq. metres. Philip and I and my brothers decided to change from agriculture to a hotel but keeping and maintaining the agriculture part of the farm. The farm produces 300,000 kilos of oranges and also we have vegetable gardens of 30,000 sq. metres that produces all the vegetables that we need in all the restaurants and the hotel s that we have in Ibiza.
Lee: So there is the expression and I think there are only a few hotels in Ibiza, ‘Agroturismo’. How would you describe Agroturismo?
Victor: Agroturismo is In Ibiza, Spain, Italy and other countries; when you combine both activities hotel activity with agriculture, you have to combine both.
Lee: Philip just give us a little bit of background as to why sustainability is important regarding the food and electricity and then we will go into what you do here in the hotel.
Philip: Sustainability is part of our whole concept which is giving our clients an enriching experience to be as close as possible to nature and giving them luxuries at the same time. Our concept is natural luxury being chic, simple, harmonious and providing calm and quality to our clients. You might add a little splash of Ibiza glamour and the romance so that’s really our concept. From the very beginning when we opened the hotel we had in mind to go with as much sustainability as possible so we have this 3 hectare which is about 6.5 acre natural and organic vegetable garden providing vegetables and fruits for our 4 restaurants on the island so we try to be as organic and sustainable as possible. The meat and fish we try our very best to get it as close as possible to the hotel itself so we want to get that farm to table experience as much as possible and obviously these are Mediterranean fruits and vegetables not tropical , what grows in the area and try and be as sustainable as possible. We have also tried to go one step further in the sustainability and we went to electrical panels which provides about 65 -70 percent of the electricity in our hotel.
Lee: So you are solar powered as well?
Philip: Absolutely and we are thinking of next winter providing 100 per cent.
Lee: Out of interest how does that work; do you literally make an investment into panels, is it easy to do and what would stop other hotels across the island from doing it?
Philip: It’s actually very simple and the government and banks will help you out with this and within 3 -3.5 years you have actually paid back your solar panels. The panels will last about 30 – 35 years if you maintain them well so it’s not only sustainable it is part of our image and who we are; its also a great investment.
Lee: I wonder if you are being powered 65 percent what does stop other brands from going ahead. What does it take to get to 100 percent?
Philip: There are a few government papers that we still have to add to it but the idea is next winter to get to a hundred percent.
Lee: Do you think your clients come for the luxury side of the hotel or combined with the fact that there is this farm to table sustainability and ecologically friendly. What do you think is the combination that clients like?
Philip: I think they come for both basically. A lot of our clients know about sustainability and when they research the hotels and restaurants especially the restaurants where there is organic food they know about our sustainability and our concept and I think that is one of the 2 main reasons why they come; for the luxury and comfort obviously and the fact that we are farm to table.
Lee: Do you sense that there is a cultural shift with consumer demand wanting more sustainability so that they will seek out one versus the other?
Philip: Absolutely and I think it’s not only in Ibiza; it is going on all over the world and all our new projects are going to be the same way; the Bali project, Mexican, South African and all of these projects are hopefully going to be 100 per cent sustainable.
Lee: Brilliant because whether it is in clothing, in terms of carbon emissions there is a phrase now, ESG; Environmental, Social and Governance and a lot of businesses and consumers now are demanding that sustainable future.
Philip: Yes there is the cost obviously. We have electrical car plugs at the hotel ; we’ve had them for 5 years now and that works very well. The island of Formentera wants to go 100 per cent with electrical cars so its moving that way and its moving very fast I would say. A lot of our clients are renting electrical cars – you can see that and I think it’s going to be all over the world and very, very fast.
Lee: We were discussing off air the definition of luxury and many people have a perception of what that means. Atzaró group is slightly different, Victor what is your definition of luxury?
Victor: I think for us luxury is the connection with nature and the space and all our projects are related to being in harmony with our surroundings and nature around us.
Lee: Describe for those who might want to come to Atzaró in the future or maybe come down and visit and I know you can do day passes as well. Can you describe what the experience is when you come to the hotel?
Victor: Atzaró is quite a unique place because it is in the middle of the countryside and it is surrounded by all the nature of the Mediterranean nature that we have in Ibiza . We have an amazing openness of all the area – 10,000 sq. metres so it is quite big. Space and nature is what defines us at Atzaró Hotel and it is quite different to most of the traditional hotels around the world.
Lee: What is it like generally running a luxury hotel? What do you think are the key challenges that you are generally facing on a day to day basis?
Victor: Well I think the main challenger running a hotel in Ibiza is the human resources. As everybody knows the summer season in Ibiza is running from May to October then the mobility and the availability of staff is always an issue here in the island and probably management and human resources is the main thing that any hotel has in Ibiza.
Lee: So managing staff and customer service?
Victor: Exactly if you want to have a personal service to your client you need a lot of staff and to train staff and if your staff is changing or there is no continuation from one year to another it makes the service very complicated.
Lee: So for people listening involved in hospitality and leisure as you run one of the nicest hotels in Ibiza what do you look for in terms of employability in a person? What key skills do you look for when someone puts a job application in?
Victor: Well I think in terms of making a business a success the employees must be part of the project and concept. They are the ambassadors of your brand and your staff should represent the best of the brand and I think this is what we have to work with.
Lee: What are some of the key skills that you try to train your staff on?
Victor: To make them part of the project and make them a continuation of the brand is a big part of managing human resources.
Lee: When clients leave Atzaró, how do you want them to feel?
Victor: Well I hope they have a unique experience and feel that they want to come back and that they have had the vacation of their dreams.
Lee: Philip what have you learnt along the way that you can share with maybe younger people who are starting setting up in business; you can get overwhelmed sometimes with the size of what you want to do? What have you learned along the way?
Philip: Well both Victor and myself come from a very different background than hospitality so it just proves that you can do basically anything that you want to do in life as long as you are passionate about it and as long as you have the will and the mission and your objectives in front of you. I personally came from being a pilot in Africa and Victor used to work in the Spanish wellbeingEmbassy in so these two backgrounds are completely different from the hospitality business. We decided to do the first project in 2004 and we started with basically very little knowledge about hospitality luxury and what that was all about but were learning as we went along by basically listening to what our clients really wanted and we kept on moving forward . Obviously we made mistakes and fell down many, many times but we always got up so you know your objectives, you know your mission and you have a strong attitude and I think that is one of the key notes in all work is having that right attitude. You fall down 100 times and you get back up 100 times and you get on with it so we did go through a lot of hard times and we learned through every experience and with the help of a few others that are in the hospitality business to achieve that real luxury level, we finally got to where we wanted to be.
Lee: In terms of hospitality for people listening across Greater Manchester hospitality is now starting to reopen and everybody is moving forward with the announcement yesterday from the government , what are your top tips for succeeding and having a successful hospitality business?
Philip: You need to know your concept first of all; you have to aim for your concept and have a clear concept have your mission, keep to it get to your objectives and as I said before a very strong attitude; never give up and that I believe in every job – you never give up, keep on going. I know it is not easy for everybody out there some people have it easier than others but everything is relative. Everybody has to put in their effort and keep going and that basically has been my attitude.
Lee: Okay and Victor?
Victor: Well the clientele guides you as to where you can go with your business because if you listen to them, listen to what they like and don’t like you can know more or less your product and how it is going.
Lee: So the concept, the finances and the clientele. What are some of the best pieces of advice that you have been given from someone else?
Victor: When we started with the hotel idea our friends were saying that we were completely crazy to invest all this money and our savings in the middle of the countryside because everybody had invested in the coastal areas of Ibiza but not in the countryside but we stuck with our idea and concept . We thought that what people would need in the future would be space, harmony with nature feeling the space around them . I think the best advice that we learned from our friends was to stick with our concept .
Philip: Another thing that I think is very important is the authenticity of our place. In our concept the historical background of Ibiza and the culture behind it and enriching experience and the wellbeing of your client is most import and giving them authenticity.
Victor: Also I think when you want to do a new project and this is my advice to choose something that there is a niche for, not something that your neighbour is doing because I think when you have a new idea it’s what makes the difference. If you do the same that everyone is doing it’s very difficult to compete with them because they have the experience they know the cost, they know everything and they have the advantage over you.
Lee: Yes its difficult , competitors have the advantage when you have just set up and doing something similar. I just want to reiterate what you said before that someone just opening up small, medium or bigger business when you start listening to other people who are negative they can put you off your game can’t they and you are never really sure; what is their motivation why are they being negative and you do hear a lot of younger entrepreneurs who get put off from doing something because they are listening to someone else – like are you crazy? What would you say to those people who have an idea and want to go for it?
Victor: I think you have to stick to your concept because even your close friends may think it a completely crazy idea and of course its crazy because it’s new and someone is not doing it but if you have a good concept you have to stick to it.
Lee: Brilliant that’s great advice. Now for people who have never been to Ibiza before or even those who have been a lot and want to experience something different, Victor – Ibicenco, you are from Ibiza – how would you describe the island and what is there to do?
Victor: Well for me Ibiza obviously is my land but it’s a unique place and I can say with modesty because I lived here for 20 hears and there is my work outside Ibiza, in Africa, Philippines, Tulus and many places. What is unique in Ibiza is it is very cosmopolitan and people are open minded and it’s a beautiful amazing island; it’s more than parties and discotheques it has amazing countryside the beaches and the coastal areas – its incredible. I think Ibiza offers much more than people see the first time, they can stay for a few days and enjoy the nightlife but there is a day life also.
Lee: What would an Ibicenco’s top tip be when coming to the island? What would you say , that is your number one thing to do?
Victor: I think to enjoy the beaches of Ibiza is a must . The countryside is unique and also you have amazing architecture from the white houses made with stone. Also Formentera adds value to Ibiza, you can get there by boat. The restaurants are fantastic and the food is a big part of the experience and for the last year we have amazing spa’s and places to discover and also we have the hippie market . There are a lot of things for the tourists.
Lee: Okay thank you very much and Philip, we ask every guest who comes from Ibiza, what would you say makes Ibiza for you?
Philip: Well all the points that Victor came up with I totally agree with. I would add the authenticity of the island as well; its very authentic, very international and basically for me it’s one of the places in the world that has the best package for everybody. It’s for everybody from the very rich and famous to the most humble families can come here and enjoy the island. You have amazing restaurants , nightclubs- actually the best in the world probably so the package is just amazing; the interior of the island, the beaches the clarity of the water and the people are really just amazing very open and accepting. It’s just an amazing place and package and that’s what I was attracted to when I came here. My favourite places are the little nooks and crannies of the island where I can go with the dogs, go bicycling , walking around in nature and I advise everybody that comes to Ibiza for the first time, obviously the reputation of the island is going to stick with the island but get to know the island and the people that have a tendency of coming back very often is the way you tend to discover the island and end up staying here. I know so many people that have done that and come here for a vacation made it longer and ended up staying here so its an amazing place, an amazing package and just a few hours away from most places in Europe.
Lee: Okay, brilliant thank you and congratulations on your success so far and I wish you all the best for the rest of the year . Victor in one word what makes Ibiza for you?
Victor: Authentic would be the word.
Lee: Okay, thank you very much everybody for listening. This is the Logros Show and we are back next week and I do believe we have a pre-recorded interview with the president of Ibiza, Vicent Marí I spoke to him last week. Thank you to Victor and Philip.
What is this interview about?
Atzaró Agroturismo Hotel Group
How the hotel evolved from a rural farm in Ibiza to the Atzaró Hotel
Sustainability and the concept of the Atzaró Group
Farm to table experience
The future of the Atzaró Group
Who may Be Interested in This Article?
Those who want a different experience from the ‘traditional coastal’ hotel stay
People who love being surrounded by nature who can still enjoy the luxury that a stay at Atzaró can offer
Clients who are interested in sustainability and foods grown organically
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