Cool Kids on the Block
By Stacy Shoemaker Rauen
Photography Courtesy of Grupo Habita
Three brothers and a friend, that’s the makeup of the founders of Mexican lifestyle hotel company Grupo Habita. From their first and namesake venture, Hotel Habita, to their latest, Downtown in Mexico City—part luxury hotel, part über-chic hostel in a 17th-century palace—in just over a decade the foursome’s bespoke, stylish concepts have helped define experiential hotels in Mexico (and more recently, in New York). And the passionate, carefree, in-the-know partners who have a knack for never repeating their one-of-a-kind ideas (luxury cabins in Mexico’s wine country, anyone?) are just getting started.
Carlos Couturier and Moises Micha
At HD Americas on Tuesday, September 24th, one half of the powerhouse team—Carlos Couturier and Moises Micha—sit down with HD’s Michael Adams to discuss their undeniably successful ventures and what makes them tick. Here, they give a taste of what’s to come in the keynote conversation.
You have made an undeniable mark on the Mexican hotel market. What do you think travelers to Mexico are looking
Essence and authenticity. Mexico has a strong cultural heritage and
great natural resources. Travelers now more than ever want to have a unique experience.
At Endémico Resguardo Silvestre, the hotel’s 20 eco-friendly cabins are perched on stilts and spread out on
nearly 100 acres of land
How have the terms luxury and boutique/lifestyle evolved over the last few years?
They both go hand in hand. We believe in luxury in intimate properties with attention to personalized service.
You recently opened Hôtel Americano in New York. Why was it time to expand outside of Mexico?
New York was an obvious destination for us. We felt that specifically West Chelsea was a perfect fit for our first property outside Mexico.
What areas do you have your eyes on for future developments?
We want to expand further in Mexico and North America. At the moment, aside from Hotel Escondido, we are working on a project in Austin, Texas, and one in Guadalajara. A second property in New York [is a possibility] as well as one in Los Angeles.
You mention Hotel Escondido. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It is located on a pristine beach site twenty miles north of Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Its sixteen bungalows have palapa roofs and a plunge pool. There is an Olympic-size pool parallel to the ocean as well. It will also have a spa, music room, restaurant, and bar.
Each of your hotels is a true original. How do you constantly reinvent yourselves?
What defines the concept of each hotel in the first place is its location—they are rooted in the location. New neighborhoods that have not been fully developed are very interesting for us. Sometimes we look for the property, and other times, the hotel finds us!
You use a different designer for almost every property—many of them undiscovered by the mainstream audience. Why?
We are keen on not using very well known interior designers, so that their style is not predominant in the hotel.
Striking doors salvaged from an old bank vault set the palatial vibe at Downtown Mexico
Keys to success?
Stay honest to our beliefs and focused.
You seem to have a well-oiled machine. What’s it like working with family and friends?
Sometimes it can be a great challenge, but what has worked to our advantage is that each of the four partners has one area of responsibility and we respect each other.
HD’s signature event, Owners’ Roundtable, heads back to HD Americas, Wednesday, September 25th, with—appropriately—a focus on the Americas. In our version of speed meeting, some 15 hotel brand executives, owners, development trackers, and developers will share their insight and experience—the good and the bad—working in the region, rotating tables every 10 minutes. Since Vail Brown of STR (Smith Travel Research, Inc.) will start the conversation with a development outlook, and Lodging Econometric’s Bruce Ford will be one of the table hosts, we checked in with them for an update on what’s happening in the region. Here’s what they shared:
• In the top 25 U.S. markets, there is an unprecedented amount of renovation occurring, driven by a backlog of CapEx projects, new brand standards being exercised, and a re-invention of “an amenity creep” inside large hotels, says Ford. That equates to hotels evaluating their F&B offerings, from minibars (back in action) to signature restaurants.
• With the drought of new hotel construction entering its fourth year in the U.S., conversion is the most attractive growth plan, reports STR.
• Ford says the top U.S. cities showing the most robust development pipelines are New York, Washington, DC, and Miami, with Boston and Orlando following suit. Interestingly, South Beach will be home to six new branded hotels by the end of this year.
• The hotspots in the Americas are where the international arrivals are. Previously, if a European or Latin hotel company was coming to the U.S., New York and San Francisco would be the first and second targeted cities; now, according to Ford, it’s New York and Miami. “Miami gets the resort and New York gets the urban hotel,” he says.
• Brazil has nearly 75,000 guestrooms in the pipeline according to Ford, but Western brands are still struggling due to high taxes on importing products, extended construction timelines, and difficulty converting existing buildings to comply with brand standards.
• Ford points to significant development happening in Central America—Mexico in particular, which is up 20 percent. STR adds that in the Caribbean and Mexico, 22 hotels have recently opened in the last 12 months, and 131 projects are in the construction and planning stages.
• “Overall,” says Ford, “we have bounced off the bottom from the downturn and are improving dramatically as we move up the real estate cycle for the next several years. The future of the hotel economy looks bright, and pipelines are growing as a result—conversions and renovations are robust.”