After a 22-year period working at one of the world’s most famous hotels, Louise Davis has decided to retire in order to dedicate herself to other things which she has not had time for while working at the hotel, but she has never had a dull moment.
Q.— Where are you from in the UK?
A. — I was born in Liverpool.
Q.— What did you study and what were your initial career plans?
A. — I did a BA Hons in Spanish at Birmingham University and a post-graduate course in administration with Spanish and French for people entering the diplomatic service or high-level business.
Q.— Take us through your journey to Majorca?
A. — After completing my studies I wanted to travel before starting a proper career. The first summer I took holiday work with Thomson who were going to send me to Tunisia but the day before I left they changed plan as they had a sudden need in Ibiza and as I also spoke Spanish, they sent me there. I was then offered winter work in Majorca which I first said no to, but as it was meant to be for a short period I decided to take it, although my mental image of Majorca was not too favourable. Just before I was going to leave the island I met my husband, which then made me change plan.
I stayed on the island and after working for the tour operating side of tourism, I changed to hotels, working for the MD of Sol Meliá and then in the sales department.
From there I moved to Trusthouse Forte as manager of their regional Mediterranean office in Cala Viñas and when they withdrew, I worked in sales for a huge aparthotel complex.
Over these years I was also doing a fair amount of translation work and I then created a translating agency with a German partner.
Q.— How did you end up working at La Residencia?
A. — Translation work was really the catalyst as the property had a head office in London and nobody in the hotel to translate documents or redact memos in correct English. I started on a temporary basis and eventually was asked to do more and more until finally it became full time and I was asked to also take on the PR.
Q.— You began when Richard Branson owned the hotel. What was it like back in the early days?
A. — It felt like a smaller operation somehow as it was just ‘La Residencia’ and although part of the Virgin Group, it was run as a separate entity so it was more like a family-run business.
Q.— What did Branson bring to Deya and a lesser extent Majorca?
A. — I imagine he brought prestige as his name resounds, and it was good for Majorca to see that the entrepreneur favoured the island before others and that he visited regularly and evidently loved it. To Deya, much of the same. His relaxed air and human touch went down well as he fitted in well with the local way of doing things.
Q.— What was he like to work for?
A. — He was considerate to absolutely everyone. He would chat to the maid, to the porter, to the receptionist, asking them their name, and how they were. He was always polite and never demanding. He always thanked you when you did something for him and he was thoughtful.
Q.— It would appear that ever since he sold the property the various owners have tried to maintain the same philosophy with so many return guests from all over the world. What is the secret to the Residencia?
A. — I think the secret is a combination of location - an undeniably beautiful one, nestling between mountain and sea and a place that immediately makes people relax - and the staff. There are many staff members who have worked here for much longer than myself since the hotel opened in 1984. These locals, quite naturally, consider the hotel their second home. The love it as if they had a vested interest in it and this feeling of place and belonging is reflected in how they work and how they love to make guests feel at home.
Q.— It is famous for its exclusive clientele but how much of a role has the hotel come to play in the local community?
A. — It may be famous for its ‘celebrity’ clients, but these guests return because they know that discretion is guaranteed if they stay at the property. It is the art of ensuring that they can be ‘just another guest’ which our staff have engineered into a fine art. Nobody is given extra celebrity status and that is why the ‘famous’ will return for they can forget their public life and just have a holiday. I have strived to involve the community over the past years as there were times when I sensed local people considered the hotel as out of bounds. It stands in a small village and therefore I think it should form a living part of it and we should involve everyone somehow.
Art and artists have always been a part of the property since it first opened and I wanted this to continue and for the artists to feel that the hotel appreciated them and involved them. The same goes for musicians: we have a beautiful Steinway piano and it should be played on. And when Ca’n Alluny became a house museum, I wanted to encourage guests to visit it and appreciate all that Robert Graves did to put Deya on the map. It is a fantastic place and one that anyone who appreciates poetry is amazed at. I am very happy to have started literary events at the property this year and I hope that they will continue into the future. The local community are invited to the events and we also participate in the Deya cultural programme and help sponsor other cultural events as much as our budget allows. I am very clear in my mind that the local community should feel that the hotel is part of the village.
Q.— Some of the most famous people in the world have stayed at the hotel over the past 30 years. I know you’ve never been a star spotter but surely they got a bit of extra treatment. Are there any you remember as stand out guests?
A. — Well, I think I have answered this question above. I have been very aware of the famous people resident in the hotel, but our policy is not to show it, not to spread the word, to just let them be. This policy works. The type of celebrity visiting us is the type who wishes to go unnoticed. Nobody comes to Deya to ‘stand out’ or to attract the paparazzi, but to have a wonderful stay in a place where they are able to unwind and relax. They are treated in the same way as any of our other guests. From actors, to musicians, writers, film directors, movie stars - you name it - but all have been given the same care and attention.
Q.— Some members of the rich and famous have special requirements. You must have had some odd requests over the years?
A. — In actual fact, very seldom. Some may want only water in their mini-bar, or I remember one wanting M&Ms of only a certain colour, but these are anecdotes and while others may have partied late into the night and then caused some trouble for the concierges, these happen with non-famous guests also.
Q.— Just how important has La Residencia become to Deya. Since its opening Deya has also grown and blossomed into an internationally famous destination for all the right and unique reasons. Have the hotel and the village worked hand in hand?
A. — I like to think that the hotel has become an icon in the village. It has held its reputation for decades and, yes, turned the village into a popular spot for the wealthy. Many of the villas that dot the surrounding hills are owned by people who ‘discovered’ Deya after staying at the hotel. For some in the village this has brought prosperity as wealthy people can afford to dine out and there are more people visiting local shops and ateliers.
However, there also needs to be a balance. Property prices are sky high and this means that the locals can no longer afford to purchase a house. Rentals are few and far between, making them expensive and short in number. The local community is an integral part of the place and in fact it is what makes Deya very special, so it is important that people can still live and work here and it does not become a place for the wealthy. I certainly understand this and I hope that the grain of sand offered by the hotel to include the locals will help.
Q.— How have the market and the guests changed over the past ten years?
A. — The principal market is still British and the hotel is well-known in the UK. Our second market is American and then we have a great mix of other nationalities.
Q.— And how has the hotel changed to move with the ever-changing demand in the market?
A. — The hotel is always aware of what is happening in the market and where adaptation is required it does so. Of course, now we have sockets for modern devices whereas in the past we didn't even have TVs in the rooms.
Q.— How have you seen the luxury market in Majorca change over the past 20 years and do you think the island and the hotels can compete with the real top end of the market?
A. — I see that the island has a greater luxury offer than ever before which only serves to help promote it as a luxury destination, meaning that the old image of Majorca as a mass tourism destination is changing. Majorca has some super hotels which are right there at the top end of the market and there is no one better experienced than Majorcan hoteliers to know how to move with market trends.
Q.— Describe your average day?
A. — That is almost impossible as my days are never the same. Of course there is always much catching-up on e-mail correspondence, and maybe welcoming a media group or an individual journalist, offering site inspections, hosting a lunch maybe. But each day is different. I could be involved in organizing an event, a cocktail, or doing creative writing for a press release. There are constant interruptions so it's impossible to keep to a planned schedule. Busy would be the operative word.
Q.— Why have you decided to retire?
A. — Because I now can. And because for the past four to five years I have wanted to work a little less in order to find time for other things. I love my job but to do it well it requires dedication and it tends to absorb you, leaving no time for other hobbies. I need to have more time for other things.
Q.— What plans do you have for the future. You must have made some very interesting friends over the years?
A. — Yes, I have made some wonderful friends. And for the future I would like to do some writing - one thing I have long wanted to try but never found the time for. I would also love to be involved in the odd event organisation and maybe help out now and then in one of the foundations I have supported over the years. And I will have time to spend with my family, and to travel.
Q.— What does Deya mean to you? What is so special about the village and its people?
A. — Deya will always be part of me, as I have worked here for over twenty years and made friends here. It feels very familiar and cosy and welcoming.
Q.— Do you now consider Deya home?
A. — My second home.