Pablo Carrington: “True luxury knows no standardisation”

Marugal Hotels. Luxury hotel brands.

Pablo Carrington, has been at the helm of Marugal Distinctive Hotel Management for 20 years. His late vocation manifested itself after a process of introspection that revealed to him a new professional direction within the hotel industry. Today he is one of the inescapable and outstanding references in the area of high-end hospitality.

As a result of this process, Marugal was born, which this year celebrates its 20th Anniversary, whose hallmark is the commitment to excellence and the constant search for that sense of place in the experience with long-term sustainable hotel projects, very personal and far removed from perishable trends.

We read that you discovered your true vocation in the midst of a promising career in the financial sector.  Was it always clear to you what you wanted to do?

No. Not at all. I worked first in banking and then in strategic consulting. In both jobs I did very well professionally but I felt that those jobs were not going to make me happy.

What makes a consultant give up everything for the hotel business?

After several years in consulting in Paris, I decided to take a few months sabbatical to reflect, as I didn’t have a clear vocation. And after working on it in depth with an extraordinary coach, I came up with the hotel business, a sector I would never have thought I would dedicate myself to. And 20 years later, here I am, passionate about my profession and with a vocation that took a long time to manifest itself!

Marugal Hotel Management. Luxury brands hotel. Marugal Hotel Management, a luxury hotel brand by Mandarina Brand Society.

"We only take on projects that we believe in, both for their potential and our ability to add value"

After a trajectory that we could call a more leisurely profile, in recent months we have seen how Marugal has launched a process of development and presence in new markets. What is the context in which it has decided to bet on growth?

Marugal does not have a strategic plan that it has to comply with or shareholders that oblige it to open X hotels per year. We grow based on the opportunities that arise. We receive many proposals but we only take on those projects in which we believe, both for their potential and for our ability to add value.

What are the expansion plans? (Whatever you can tell…).

Next year we will open a second hotel in Formentera and there are a couple of other projects in the pipeline but we’ll see if they go ahead.

What has helped you to become one of the most prestigious managers of unique hotels in Europe?

I believe in our measured growth, without an eagerness to put flags on the map, taking only those projects where we can add value, and an unwavering commitment to excellence with a strong component of self-criticism and constantly looking at how we can do better.

What are the keys to the longevity and resilience of a project like Marugal?

Maintaining a clear philosophy, not being influenced by passing fashions or ephemeral trends and, I insist, a firm commitment to offer excellence both in terms of people and product.

"We are improving and polishing this induction so that new recruits get the best possible grasp of our company culture as soon as possible"

How do you build a brand and company culture with a growing team from different backgrounds, cultures and languages?

Over the years, HR has developed a very effective induction process to explain the company’s values and our modus operandi.  With the self-criticism that characterises us, we are improving and polishing this induction so that new recruits grasp our company culture as soon as possible and as well as possible.

Pablo Carrington de Marugal Hotels Management por Mandarina Brand Society. Marugal Management Hotels, a luxury brand creada por Mandarina Brand Society

"We seek to create economically sustainable projects as our approach is long term"

You have always advocated location, sense of place and service as the hallmarks of Marugal hotels.What does a hotel have to have for Marugal to consider it?

A special location or architecture in the first place; secondly a real potential to create a profitable hotel. There are extraordinary buildings and locations but with poor communications or low prospects for tourism growth. We seek to create economically sustainable projects as our approach is long term.

What defines the Marugal brand for you?

Passion for our work and excellence;

What do your customers value?

The wow factor in the check-in is generated by the product but the wow factor in the check-out is achieved through the service provided by the team.

¿Van a mantener esta filosofía de cara a nuevas incorporaciones en su cartera?

Siempre. Si no, dejaríamos de ser Marugal

"We are a company in constant evolution and improvement"

Are you going to add any additional considerations?

Being very self-critical, we are a company that is constantly evolving and improving, but the essence remains intact.

What elements make the difference in terms of service in your hotels?

The sense of place, the true commitment of our hotels to the destination and to the social fabric and the escape from typical standards as we always seek differentiation; all this carried with the passion and dedication of people who love their profession.

Pablo Carrington de Marugal Hotels Management, a luxury hotels brand. Marugal Hotel Management. Luxury hotel brands.

"True luxury knows no standardisation"

Over the last few years, a total of 29 new international brands have entered the Spanish market, 23 of them in the luxury and high-end segment. There is a clear interest in luxury hospitality projects in Spain, not only from international brands, but also from private investors and investment funds. In addition, the luxury hospitality sector is a niche that is increasingly being accessed by investors from other sectors to shape independent hotel projects based on excellence. How do you see the high-end hospitality sector today?How do you see the high-end hospitality sector today?

Indeed, many new brands have entered the market and to a certain extent high-end hotels have been trivialised.  That is why I believe that we must now talk about standard luxury hotels (where most of the 5-star chains fit in) and premium luxury hotels (we prefer to call them true luxury).  True luxury knows no standardisation and the chains, because of their DNA, work with standards, which, however high they may be, are still standards that are repeated in each hotel.

What challenges do you face?

Above all, I would say that the luxury hotel industry faces the challenge, as I said earlier, of differentiating standard luxury from true luxury.

What is Spain’s situation in the luxury hotel industry, and is it the same in Spain as in other markets where you are present?

Spain was lagging behind in terms of the presence of luxury hotels and average prices. Madrid was one of the cheapest capitals in Europe to stay in a 5 star hotel. But the rapid evolution of the last few years has brought us closer to the rest of Europe both in Madrid and in the rest of the country. Prices in Marbella and Mallorca are now much closer to the prices of more mature markets such as the Côte d’Azur or the Amalfi Coast than a couple of years ago, although we still have some way to go;

How has the entry of new playerssuch as investment funds affected you?

They have simply increased the number of opportunities to enter into new projects as the range of potential investors has opened up even further;

What does Marugal bring to them?

A professional manager whose main objective is not the development of his own brand but the development of the hotel’s own brand and therefore its profitability;

"We have shown that luxury can be sustainable"

The entire tourism sector is currently facing the challenge of transforming the model towards a much more sustainable and humane system. In the new era of the Sustainable Development Goals, it seems that luxury needs a rethink. How do you think luxury relates to sustainability and authenticity?.

I am surprised to still see luxury hotels with mini bottles of amenities in the bathrooms.  This shows that most luxury has a long way to go and is now limited to green washing.  We implemented the first refillable bottles in a super luxury establishment more than 12 years ago, we banned single-use plastic more than 6 years ago and we are now focused on reducing the waste generated by each hotel as much as possible.We have shown, as Soneva Fushi did in his day, that luxury can be sustainable.  Consequently it is not luxury that needs to rethink but the hotelier who needs to change the way he understands luxury because putting twenty single-use gadgets in a bathroom has long since ceased to be luxury.  The guest has long since understood this but many hoteliers are lagging far behind.

In parallel, we see that the concept of luxury has mutated and is in continuous evolution. for some time now, its demonstrative capacity, the show off, has been minimised, prioritising the valuation of other goods, sometimes scarce, such as time, and sometimes desired, such as achieving a better quality of life. We hear about new concepts linked to the sector such as ‘silent luxury’ or we see how young people reinterpret this concept from new perspectives. What is ‘luxury’ for Pablo Carrington?

For me personally luxury is space, the option of silence if I want it and a service that doesn’t tell me Mr Carrington three times at the check-in obeying a standard of service;

"The concept of luxury is quite personal"

Do you think there are many differences between cultures when it comes to the concept of luxury?

Luxury is different for everyone.  For some, luxury is measured by the thickness of the carpet and the size of the TV.  For others, luxury is measured by space and silence.  There may be some similarities by culture but the concept of luxury is quite personal.  For some, luxury is measured by the thickness of the carpet and the size of the TV.  For others, luxury is measured by space and silence.  There may be some similarities by culture but the concept of luxury is quite personal.

"A human service that is not automated and focused on making them happy"

How does Marugal face the entry of new generations of luxury consumers, with new concerns, and have you detected new interests in your guests?

We listen to our customers and make small adjustments to service where necessary but fundamentally for luxury consumers the most important thing has not changed; human service that is not automated and focused on making them happy during their stay at the hotel.

We imagine that these 20 years have gone by in a flash: what would you say to the Pablo Carrington of 2003? What advice would you give him?

He should follow his intuition and not accept situations that he does not believe in or that make him uncomfortable. And although Paul made many mistakes over the last 20 years, he should do it again, because from those mistakes came the strengths of the Marugal of 2023.

Highly personal

A place in the world to get lost. The Norman countryside, the forests of Montana in the USA, Castile, the dehesas of Extremadura ….. nature brings me serenity;

A writer/artist/musician…  Stefan Zweig, especially his novel The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European.

Your favourite food or drink. A sponge cake that has been made at my house since I was a child.  The smell alone is like my Proust muffin and takes me back to my childhood.

The best time of the day. The sunrise.

Someone I admire. The cloistered religious. I am not very practising, so it is not a matter of religious fervour. But I think we do not value enough what they contribute, from their cloister, to civil society;

Photography: Juan Gavilán

Mandarina Brand Society
Mandarina Brand Society
Mandarina Brand Society Mandarina Brand Society

We are in Palma, we are in San Sebastian, Ibiza, Madrid, or Barcelona…
We are on the other side of the telephone, or replying you an email. Because what it really matters is to be where you are and whenever you need us.

    I have read and accept the legal terms of this website.