Room mate Hotels founder Kike Sarasola

r6a4812 - Room mate Hotels founder Kike Sarasola

The founder and president of Room Mate Hotels – awarded the gold medal for innovative services in the tourism sector – met with Soledad Bescós during the first Forum for Innovation and Tourism.

“You always have to reinvent yourself”, announces Kike Sarasola (1963), while he is talking about the key factors of being in the vanguard of innovation. This entrepreneur is preceded by his smile. It´s not only his flagship but also part of the terms he imposes on his team.

“We are like a fresh breath of air,” he continues. The numbers he´s presenting are vertiginous. In 10 years only he set up a company which now owns 21 hotels, operating in the whole of Europe, Istanbul, New York, Miami and Mexico City. Moreover, in the next 15 months, there are 12 new national and international openings planned.

The revenues amounted to 47 million euros in 2014 and the aim is to reach 200 million in 2017. Room Mate has 600 employees worldwide and occupies the fifth position as an international hotel chain, as far as followers of social networks are concerned.

The fourfold Spanish equestrian sport winner (plus bronze medal in European competitions and three Olympic diplomas in Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney) says that the idea was born while he was travelling all over the world.

“I was one of the most-awarded Spanish riders and was therefore travelling a lot. But I could never find a good and pretty hotel at a convenient price in the city centres. I talked about it with my business partners and we decided to go for it – and it worked from day one.”

They were pioneers for details like breakfast until 12 pm, various pillow types for different likings or free WiFi all over the hotel, and now also over the city with a service called WiMate. All guests of his hotels are offered a wireless router to which up to five devices may connect. “It´s been an incredible success. The idea was mine and we developed it with the company ConnectedtoGo,” he says enthusiastically.

His trademark is that the customer feels at home. That´s also why all the hotels carry names of people. Kike reveals that “the best way to travel is to visit a friend. We create a fictitious one, sometimes via Facebook contests: his face, his characteristics, and a name that can easily be pronounced in all languages. We give this information to a famous interior designer and tell them to decorate the house of that friend. That way, every hotel differs from the other and offers a new experience.”

As a total admirer of Richard Branson, he declares that “he loves work and challenges” and that a real entrepreneur is someone who pursues an idea without the fear of failing a thousand times before achieving it. His concept of luxury is simple: excellent service at all times, no matter if you pay little. “I like to sit in the lobby of my hotels and watch people leave with a smile on their faces,” he explains.

His last project, BeMate, came from “listening to the requirements of the clients”, and is revolutionary in the tourism sector, meaning a real competitor for Airbnb. It consists of a technical platform which offers touristic apartments with the possibility to enjoy the additional services of a hotel. The apartments have one to four bedrooms and prices range between 80 and 400 euros.

They are all at a distance of, at most, 15 minutes from the hotels of the chain or from partner hotels. The guests can count on a 24-hour concierge service, drop-off and delivery of keys and luggage storage. Additionally, BeMate offers further fee-based services, like airport transfers, daily cleaning, and the purchase of tickets for events.

“For the moment we run it in 10 major cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Salamanca, Granada, Florence, Amsterdam, New York, Miami, and Mexico City. This year our aim is to reach 150 cities in total, but it has to be regulated first in order to cease being a shadow economy. My idea adapts to a different way of travelling. If you travel with children, for example, you will prefer a spacious apartment but don’t want to miss the conveniences of the services a hotel offers,” he says.

Mallorca – which he calls ‘The Florida of Europe’ – cannot boast a Room Mate yet because he has not found the appropriate property so far. Moreover, “we live for six months a year in Ibiza and this summer we circled the island by boat; it’s an island that means relaxation for me and my family. This winter I will escape to Son Brull, which I love,” he tells us and makes reference to two hotel chains he deeply admires: Meliá and Usuhaia. The first has reinvented Magaluf, the second did the same at Playa d’en Bossa in Ibiza.

4 300x300 - Room mate Hotels founder Kike Sarasola
Soledad Bescós

Mallorca-born with Aragon roots and living in Mallorca, after a while spent in Boston, USA. A Harvard graduate in Business Administration and Economics, Soledad is really passionate about interviewing fascinating people with different backgrounds and talents. She writes interior design articles for YO DONA magazine (El Mundo) but always about houses touched with the soul of the owners.

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