Louise Davis made the most of the pandemic to write what she describes as “her memoirs” about the 22 years she spent working as the public relations and marketing manager at the world famous La Residencia Hotel in Deya.
The hotel was put on the map by Sir Richard Branson, who bought the hotel a few years after it opened in 1987. It soon became one of the most popular hotels for royalty, the rich and famous, politicians and leading lights from the world of art and culture - not to mention guests from all over the globe who return to the hotel year after year.
However, in her book Hideaway Hotel, Louise focuses more about her time at the hotel and what has made the hotel so successful.
“The idea to write a book about the hotel had been at the back of my mind for a number of years, but while I was working there I never had much spare time. But once I retired nearly three years ago, I started giving it more thought and then with the pandemic I had time on my hands to finally get on with it; and it has just been published.
“It’s a personal account of my time at the hotel, its history and how it developed. I’ve dedicated one chapter to celebrities but I’ve changed their names to protect their identity. I guess that’s something we all learnt while working at the hotel - the importance of privacy.
“Obviously I’ve named Richard, he played such a vital role in the hotel’s history and I worked closely with him, but that’s it. Those who work at the hotel and know it well will probably know which celebrities I am writing about, but I decided from the start that the book was going to be about me and the hotel - my memoirs if you like.”
Apart from discretion being paramount at La Residencia, Louise would only ever confirm or deny that anyone famous or important had been staying at the hotel after they had left the island - much to the frustration of inquisitive members of the media such as myself and my colleague Jason Moore. We both had the hotel on speed dial because, as soon as we got a sniff of anyone of interest being on the island, La Residencia was always the first port of call.
Over the years, Louise has welcomed the likes of the late Lady Di, Sir Bob Geldof, Bono and the rest of U2, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, Naomi Campbell, Sir Michael Caine, Pierce Brosnan, Harrison Ford and the Emperor of Japan ... the list goes on, but Louise is giving no secrets away in the book. Only one celebrity in all of her years failed to return after being photographed.
“If they were spotted outside of the hotel, there was little we could do about that, but inside was, and is, a different matter.”
She says that everyone who stayed, and stays, at the hotel just mingles with one another and makes the most of the extensive and luxurious facilities and the natural environment in which the hotel, which has expanded over the years, is set.
Louise spent her career working in tourism, having first started with a summer season in Ibiza and then being offered an administrative post at Thomson Holidays’ HQ in Palma for what she expected would be a winter.
“But not only did I fall in love with Mallorca, I also met my husband and I stayed. I went on to work for TrustHouse Forte at the Villamil in Paguera. When that was sold, I moved to the Meliá group at their main office before setting up a translation service, and that is how I came into contact with La Residencia. They needed some help with translations and I began working there for a few hours a week. Gradually, the hours became mornings and before I knew it I was the full-time assistant to the general manager; my journey at La Residencia began in earnest in 1996.
“It was ironic in one way. I remember working for a large hotel chain when La Residencia first opened and my colleagues and bosses thought it was a laugh. Back then it was a rural property with only a dozen or so rooms with no televisions or fridges - it does not even have a beach - and my work mates claimed it would never work. How wrong they were. In fact, we did have 12 TV sets which were available on request, but we had very few takers to be honest. Even now, with TVs a must in all hotels, I doubt they are used that much.
“There’s so much more to the hotel than just lying around watching the TV. It’s an oasis of peace, beauty and tranquillity. I remember so many people arriving, totally stressed out from work and all the other pressures of daily life, but within 24 hours they were totally relaxed and chilled out. That is what makes La Residencia so special and why it has so many repeat visitors.
“Yes, I guess it is mainly thanks to Richard. When he owned the hotel he was a regular visitor. He would play tennis every morning, but he would conduct himself like any other guest. He would dine in the hotel, lie around the pool working on his mobile, but more importantly he had time for everyone. He would stop and chat with all the members of staff, be they the bell boy, the gardener, or the manager and myself and mingle with the guests. He would just sit back and enjoy the hotel like everyone else and he frequently pops back, as do his children and family - his mother was great fun.”
“Branson’s relaxed and warm approach rubbed off on the staff. He believed it was vital to have a happy staff and recognise and reward them for their good work. Behind the facade, upstairs and down, we were all one happy family and the guests formed part of that.
“What is more, many of the staff were proper family. Many were related in one way or the other, being from Deya, Valldemossa or Soller. They were quiet surprised when I arrived and had no relations working at the hotel; in fact I didn’t even really know anyone working at the hotel. I just sent my CV in. But it was not long before I was part of the Residencia family and I think that is something very special I took with me when I retired.
“I know there are many luxury hotels with highly trained staff, but very few have a group of employees capable of creating such a welcoming and homely atmosphere. For many of the guests, La Residencia is like a second home and they knew the names of most of the staff and vice versa. I think the Branson effect still lives on in La Residencia and Deya.
“Just like myself, he loves the village and the island and we were always very conscious about the hotel being very much of the village community. We were always holding cultural events and local residents were always invited or encouraged to just pop in and have a drink or dine on our glorious terraces.
“My years at La Residencia were great days. Obviously, we had our ups and downs, but we never let them show when attending to the guests. We greatly respected and appreciated why they had selected to stay at La Residencia and help play a role in making the hotel the wonderful and glorious place it is and always will be as long as it remains open. I just hope, not only for La Residencia but for the island’s tourist industry as a whole, that something can be salvaged from this year.”