The Hotel Glòria de Sant Jaume in Palma is just coming up to its first anniversary, but the celebrations have already started after the five-star boutique establishment was last week judged by LTI – Luxury Travel Intelligence - week as one of the best 15 new hotels in the world.
Vanessa Cabau, general manager of the Cabau Group, which owns the hotel, said: "We are filled with pride that all our efforts to create a very unique hotel have been recognised by LTI. It was totally unexpected and it’s not only excellent for us as a hotel but for Palma in general, considering that on the list there were only two other hotels in Europe - one in Marbella and the other France. The rest are all in destinations such as the Maldives, Bali, Hong Kong, Fiji and Cambodia."
The historic Palma palazzo in calle Carrer Sant Jaume at the top of the Borne has been on the capital’s historic registry since the 16th century and was purchased in 2016 before being renovated over the following two years.
"The renovation took 19 months in total and we had a city council archaeologist watching our every move. Fortunately, nothing was found during the excavations but we wanted to preserve and restore as much of the original property as possible anyway. We hired master craftsmen, old ironmongers and carpenters and they even had to revert to using original and traditional tools in order to restore some areas and items of the building."
This latest venture by the Cabau Group is very much a family affair. Cabau Hotels is a hotel chain that has been managing hotels in Majorca, Ibiza and Gran Canaria for more than 40 years and the unique Hotel Glòria de Sant Jaume is the most recent addition to its portfolio.
"I come from a family which has been involved in the tourism industry for years and both my parents have always been very hands-on, especially when it comes to interior design and decor. I studied tourism and hostelry before setting out on my own path with my own businesses. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be a success and gain my own respect within the industry. I wanted to show who I was and that I was not just taking the obvious route and stepping directly into the family businesses.
"But eventually, my father decided that he wanted to take a step back and I took over as general manager, giving my parents the time to realise their dream, which was to create a unique and extremely special hotel - the Hotel Gloria. We opened on 21 January last year and, for me, it was a whole new challenge. I had to quickly get used to what ‘real hotelery’ is all about. There were two things in particular I had to learn, firstly what the high-end chic market is looking for and that the hotel meets all of its needs. Secondly, that managing a small hotel of just 14 rooms is much more demanding than running a hotel with 100.
"We have to not only be very cost conscious but also employ highly trained and multifunctional staff. Unlike large hotels, we don’t have departmental managers. Everyone is their own manager and has to believe in and share the philosophy of the hotel.
"Great attention is paid to detail, we have a very personal touch and we like to think that guests feel the heart and soul that we have all put into creating this glorious hotel, especially my parents. What I aim to achieve is to make guests feel that they are at home. Every room is different and all of the furnishings and decor have been handpicked and that says something. It shows that the property has a soul and that we have striven to maintain the essence of this historic building right in the very heart of Palma. When guests or visitors walk in, we want them to feel the magical touch. And we also offer a wide range of facilities. In our spa, we have the largest indoor swimming pool in the centre of Palma. We have the rooftop terrace and plunge pool with glorious views and we now have a conference room, not to mention the El Patio de Glòria restaurant and bar and, of course, the whole of Palma for our guests to explore."
After what Vanessa described as a "soft start" - they wanted to get everything right before really hitting the market - the hotel has enjoyed a very good first year. "Being the first year, it was tough; it’s a hard market. We have a lot of boutique hotels in Palma all targeting the same market and there are always going to be difficulties in tourism, such as the current fall in demand. But 2019 can only be better. Making the LTI top 15 listing is certainly going to help and we intend to increase our social media presence. But word of mouth also works. We welcome a lot of long-weekend guests and also businesspeople, and most of them have vowed to return for a holiday here with their partners.
"The majority of our clients are British but we also get a lot of Germans, Scandinavians and Spanish and we are always looking to expand, especially during the winter. But the biggest handicap is the lack of flights. However, we are part of the hoteliers' association and that is a constant issue we are also trying to address, as is making sure that Palma has a clean image and reputation.
"It’s a beautiful city, it’s our home and that is what we want to transmit to our guests; that they can feel at home at the Hotel Gloria in Palma as well. We’ve got a wonderful all-year climate, great shops, restaurants and bars. I think much more could, should, be done to tell the world about the delights of Palma. Perhaps, having grown up here, we get complacent, but the city really is a very special place."