As Pablo Carrington, CEO of Marugal Hotels, prepared to launch the La Zambra hotel for Intriva, his team successfully reinvented one of Spain’s historic hotels for the 2020s, bringing together a distinctive brand and an efficient operation.

Q: What’s distinct about La Zambra?

There have been a few openings in Costa del Sol and a few more will happen in the next year or two, but none have a story like La Zambra. Formerly called the Byblos Hotel, it was an icon during the coast’s amazing era of hedonism in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. We had Mick and Bianca Jagger staying, as well as Michael Jackson. You went to Marbella to have fun and be seen. You went to Byblos, now La Zambra, to have fun and not be seen.

Today the hotel is named after a flamenco dance, that’s only performed by women and is typical of the region, and we brought the brand forward, creating a very unique product. Making sure it has a sense of hedonism again, the hedonism of the 2020s.

Q: When does the hotel open and how are bookings progressing?

We opened in mid-September and have been taking bookings for the winter and next summer. There’s a lot of interest from the corporate and event sectors, many of whom are household names, which are waking up after COVID-19.

Q: How closely have you been working with Intriva?

It’s been a true partnership from day one. Everybody thinks hotels are easy, but this is a technical business and Intriva understands that. They ask me what they should be doing, and then have their opinion because they own the project. Together, we’ve managed to build something truly distinctive yet with traditional Andalusian flair.

Q: Why is now a good time to open, especially given fears of an economic slowdown?

The Costa Del Sol has one advantage in Europe, which is not necessarily 40-degree weather but light with over 330 days of sun per year. After COVID-19, people are travelling to nearer destinations, taking the environmental impact seriously. If there’s a slowdown, the real luxury sector has always resisted better than other segments. We opened a hotel in Mallorca in 2010 during the economic crisis, and it worked very well from day one.

Q: From a financial and an investment perspective, what are your expectations for La Zambra?

At the end of the day, our role is really to ensure that by year three the hotel is reaching its cruise level. So, if we’re aiming for a €400 to €500 average room rate, we should be there with stable occupancy. We’ve developed a robust business plan with Intriva that makes sense from a hotel perspective. We’re not trying to reach the Moon or invent hot water.