Thomas Moons became General Manager of La Residencia in December 2020 with big plans. Last year, he told us that his ambition was to make the hotel number one in Spain. Before the hotel opened this year, Thomas shared a taste of what guests can expect.
In the past few months, up to eight projects at one time have been under way in the hotel. The most important of these are the complete renovation of the pool restaurant, helmed by More Design of Deià. Also, the redesign of the main entrance to the hotel to create extra much-needed parking spaces.
And what about Thomas’s goal to be number one in Spain?
‘Indeed, this is still our ambition for 2024,’ he told me. ‘As we approached this new season, we asked ourselves what we need
as a team to get to that next level. One of our mantras is “If you don’t look after yourself, you don’t gain the right to look after your guests”. So, our other significant renovations and our focus have been around making sure the team has everything we need to get to that next level.’
In Thomas’s opinion, the two best hotels in Spain are La Residencia, a Belmond Hotel, and Finca Cortesin in Casares, Málaga. ‘Our Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) results prove how good we are,’ he said.
NPS and GRI measure customer satisfaction and impact on the environment, economy and people.
‘I know these are not as sexy as Condé Nast, Travel and Leisure and Luxury Hotel awards to name just a few, but, even so, they’re measurable. Our NPS and online reviews put us at number two. We’re well on our way to the very top.’
As marketing gurus know, there’s a huge advantage in being number two. The Belmond Group being acquired by LVMH, the world’s leading luxury group, has coincided with La Residencia’s hunger to be number one. According to Thomas, the acquisition initiated a fundamental change in perspective.
‘Hotels are often only run on a profit and loss basis. You have your income and your goal and that is what you work within,’ he told me. ‘We have shifted our focus to excellence since LVMH acquired us. This is absolutely liberating. It comes down to: if you want to be the best, invest. With everything from ambitious renovations to restyling the lamps in the hotel, we are putting our money where our mouth is and elevating what we offer.’
This shift in mindset and action has resulted in Thomas and his team asking whether what the hotel offers really is on the highest level. Could they take things a step further? The answer was a resounding ‘Yes!’
It began with a subtle evolution of the hotel’s promise.
‘Before we were “an oasis of rustic charm”,’ Thomas told me. ‘We still are but there’s a fine line between “rustic” and “old”. For me, “rustic” is a slippery slope. Now we’re “Deià’s intimate mountainside enclave.’
This promise is founded on three pillars: the artistic enclave of Deià, mountainside relaxation and epicurean escape.
For Thomas, the most important brand story for 2023 is art. As he explained, ‘Art is in our DNA. It’s been fundamental from the very beginning. But it was always very much focused on Deià. We realized that, if we want to become the best hotel in Spain, local art is not going to be enough to give us national recognition. So, in addition to continuing our relationships with local artists, we’ve started collaborating with internationally acclaimed art gallery Galleria Continua and their Mitico project.’
The first fruit of this collaboration is the unveiling of a sculpture created by the winner of the 2022 Venice Biennale. This will reside in La Residencia’s lush gardens. It, Thomas assures me, will ‘definitely provoke a conversation.’
La Residencia has also revised its artist in residence programme. Now, there will be an additional three , each staying for a two-month period in the season.
Elevating the epicurean escape aspect include renovation of the pool area and the appointment of chef Pablo Armando Aranda Moreno to the hotel’s El Olivo restaurant. Moreno has Michelin starred restaurant experience.
For active travellers, the hotel offers hiking, cycling and tennis, Petanca classes, taking the donkey trail, yoga classes and so on. There’s something interesting to do every day. The hotel’s concierge service is, as ever, standing by to arrange other adventures.
Music lovers will enjoy concerts organised with Deià Cultural and the Deià International Music Festival — this last will be in aid of the Mallorca Preservation Foundation.
When we spoke last year, Thomas said one of the most remarkable things about La Residencia was ‘the relationship the team has with our regular guests. I have never seen anything like it in my life. I saw people arriving in the hotel and falling into the arms of the receptionist with tears rolling down their cheeks.’
One year on, this remains true. ‘We offer extreme luxury. Meanwhile, you return to La Residencia to see friends and, additionally, to be treated like normal people. I was also delighted by the staff’s keenness to change and evolve. They share my ambition to do things differently and to get to number one.’