Interior design of a Zel hotel room; the first opens in Palmanova. | Zel Hotels

In an interview with Condé Nast Traveler, Rafael Nadal has revealed how the Zel hotel project with Meliá Hotels International came about.

"I have the Academy, which is directly linked to sport, whereas Zel is about leisure, relaxation, experiences and memories. I always had the desire for something like this. One day, as tends to happen with these things, Gabriel (Escarrer) scribbled down four basic points on a napkin. We realised that we couldn't agree more and we immediately got down to work."

Gabriel Escarrer of Meliá Hotels International and Rafael Nadal

"Creating this new project together with Meliá and with Gabriel is the right step. They treasure the experience and success that comes from having been pioneers in holiday tourism. It goes without saying that everything's like being at home. We are both Mallorcan and we are now fellow travellers and partners, so day-to-day working is easy."

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His involvement with Zel is "total". "For me, it means creating a new company and also a differentiated hotel concept. We want to take the essence of the Mediterranean around the world and that is why it is something that excites me. On the one hand, as everyone knows, the hotel industry in Mallorca has always had a key role in the growth of our economy. On the other, I have spent a large part of my life travelling and living in hotels. Now the time has come to reflect on everything I've learned."

Zel, he explains, is a nod towards heaven, as 'cel' means heaven in Catalan. He explains how he likes to be treated in hotels. "I like hotels that make me feel comfortable, neither over-served nor neglected, and that breathe a family atmosphere. When I like a hotel I usually go back, but this isn't necessarily because it is super luxurious. I'm just looking for it to make me feel good and somehow allow me to connect with the place, with the people and with the environment. In hotels it is also important that everyone finds their spaces, those corners where you feel comfortable and feel like yourself."

Nadal adds that he is in love with the Mediterranean. "The Mediterranean lifestyle involves beautiful, simple things, without extra decoration where it is not necessary. It's like right now. We are here, in front of the sea, and we could spend hours contemplating it. Sometimes you don't need more."

* The first Zel hotel, which is in Palmanova, is scheduled to open on July 1.