Luxury beachfront lodging and residences should put local culture and nature front and center, says Borja Escalada of RLH Properties
Mexico is riding the wave of branded residences, or turnkey units with all the amenities and marketing of a famed hotel chain. As the CEO of RLH Properties, Mexico City-based Borja Escalada, 42, oversees the city’s Four Seasons along with lodging and residential properties on both of Mexico’s coasts and in Madrid.
Mr. Escalada is putting his spin on branded residences in an ultra-luxury development called One&Only Mandarina Private Homes, located in a rainforest landscape overlooking the Pacific Ocean about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, or a three-hour flight from Los Angeles.
Studio Rick Joy architects, the team behind the exclusive Amangiri Resort and Spa getaway in Utah, designed Mandarina with a similar ethos: One of seclusion and the utmost in luxury design. The 55 low-density villas blend into the surrounding jungle flora and the Sierra del Vallejo mountains. Pricing for the private homes at Mandarina range from $4.4 million to $16.25 million.
On Mexico’s east coast, 30 miles north of Cancun, RLH Properties also owns Mayakoba, a resort collection made up of lodging, villas, condos and fractional real estate. It’s a departure from Mandarina’s ultra-luxury hideaways. Regardless, buyers can expect turnkey units and concierge service.
Originally from Madrid, Mr. Escalada recently opened Rosewood Villa Magna, a boutique hotel with 154 rooms, including 53 suites, there. Mansion Global chatted with Mr. Escalada about prioritizing local culture in luxury travel and real estate in Mexico.
Mansion Global: What’s the luxury market like in Mexico right now?
Borja Escalada: In the Riviera Nayarit, Riviera Maya and worldwide, the luxury market is being developed wider and wider as a consequence of many things. Even before Covid, new generations were spending much more money on experiences and owning real estate. This means that for all these experiences, the luxury market satisfies the demand. Covid has accelerated part of this new environment in which older generations—which have been typically more focused on having things—are finding that memories are what we have the most appreciation for.
MG: What does this mean for companies like yours in the real estate and travel industries?
BE: The focus is to become more specialized and answer the real demands over offering luxury for luxury’s sake. Usually, the luxury market creates new needs, whereas now it’s more focused on answering needs.
MG: Let’s talk about your vision to develop areas with varying levels of density. At your east coast resort, Mayakoba, what went into the decision to split up the residences into villas, condos and fractional real estate?
BE: One of the most important things is to create community. In order to create a sense of community, we have to offer different products that appeal to a variety of people’s needs. There are those who want to own a standalone villa, along with many other things including the maintenance of the villa, while others would prefer to have a condo, and perhaps a very large condo. Having those products will give us a larger and broader community, which creates a satisfying sense of residency.
MG: How important are these luxury developments for the region?
BE: When you consider Mandarina, for example, we will have around 100 new residences, which means we’ll generate a huge amount of employment, both direct during construction and indirect during full operation. Many people will be spending holidays there, and the economic impact will be significant. In the city where Mandarina is, El Monteón, which is not a big city at all, those 100 new residences will be contributing taxes.
MG: Where do you draw inspiration as a developer?
BE: I’ve been inspired to build on what similar communities to ours have been doing. Punta Mita is very popular in Mexico, and they’ve been able to build a community, but one that we think is too large. You can also think of Kasiiya Papagayo in Costa Rica, or La Romana or Punta Cana [resort areas in the Dominican Republic]. But, these are too large. They are not as exclusive as what we are planning to do. In the end, we want to have a community very well connected to the destination and very respectful of the environment. We want to create a home for our homeowners.
MG: How can developers build homes that are respectful of the natural environment?
BE: Mandarina is about 265 hectares with two hotels totaling 245 rooms, more or less, and 100 residences. The density is very, very low. All our residences are in connection with nature, meaning they’re open with a lot of outdoor spaces. In the indoor spaces, we have huge windows and walls that connect the indoors with the outdoors. The architect was able to preserve the environment, connect our guests with the environment and integrate those villas with the environment. We wanted to respect what the land used to be, not only the location, but also how the homes are designed. Also, in this segment in luxury and ultra luxury, part of what our guests want is to be in touch with the local community. Our homeowners will feel as though Mandarina is their real home, and ready to explore what the surrounding area has to offer them. They can walk to an ancient tree called La Abuela, go sailing, whale watching and surfing, and enjoy the gastronomy that Mandarina has to offer.
MG: How do you personally define luxury?
BE: Luxury is time. It’s spending time with your loved ones in an environment in which you feel connected. Especially for those who live in big cities and have stressful jobs, what really makes a moment special is when you can spend it with your loved ones and feel relaxed… Obviously, if you take that aspect of luxury and you can also be connected to nature, and enjoy the slower moments with your loved ones, that’s all the better.
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August 1st, 2016
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To the broadest scope permitted by law, their agreement to use the Website pursuant to these use terms and conditions shall be governed and be interpreted in accordance to the laws of Mexico, with the exception of standards of conflicts of law, subject to the jurisdiction of the corresponding courts of Mexico City, therefore upon use made by this Website, you expressly waive any other place or jurisdiction which may correspond due to present or future address, or due to any other cause.
RLH Properties, S.A.B. de C.V., its shareholders, partners, affiliates, related parties, and/or subsidiaries (hereinafter, “RLH”) hereby expressly reserve the right to amend, review, and change —at their discretion or as required by applicable law or governmental bodies— the design of the project, the buildings, and/or the residential units corresponding to the same. All the features and specifications indicated in this document or in any other publication may be subject to change without notice. The dimensions indicated in this document are estimates and may vary depending on the actual construction of the project, the size redesign, the orientation, and the location of the units, among other factors. The contents described in this document —including without limitation, photographs, logotypes, texts, presentations, and the project identification name— belong to RLH, or else, RLH has acquired the corresponding rights from the owners of those contents, or RLH has obtained consent from said owners to be able to publish such contents, provided that the same are protected by applicable industrial property laws. This document will never correspond to a sales offer, purchase request, and/or any other type of legally-binding document. RLH has not been registered to make sales offers in jurisdictions within the United States of America where a registration is required. This document is offered solely for information and dissemination purposes; therefore, RLH is hereby released from any direct or indirect liability that could result from using the indicated information beyond the purposes of the same. No governmental body or third party has intervened on account of the merits or value of this project or those of the relevant assets, if applicable. RLH considers that all information is true and accurate; however, RLH does not assume any legal responsibility as regards the accuracy of the information described in this document.
“Laguna Kai Villas” are owned and are being developed, offered and sold by Islas de Mayakoba, S.A. de C. V. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts is not the owner, seller, broker, developer or offeror of Laguna Kai Villas and is not an affiliate, partner, sales representative or agent of Islas de Mayakoba, S.A. de C.V. Rosewood has been engaged by Laguna Kai Hotel to provide management and optional services to Laguna Kai Hotel and Laguna Kai Villas. Rosewood’s engagement at Laguna Kai is not in perpetuity and may end at any time without notice to or consent of purchasers or owners at Laguna Kai Villas. Rosewood and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts are registered trademarks owned by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, L.L.C.”
Fairmont Residences, Mayakoba (the “Resort”) is not owned, developed, or sold by Fairmont or its Affiliates. FHP VILLAS LOTE 2, S.A DE C.V., a Mexican sociedad anónima de capital (the “Developer”), is independently owned and operated and is solely responsible for the ownership, development, and operation of the Resort.
The Developer uses the Fairmont brand name and certain Fairmont trademarks pursuant to a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable and non-sublicensable license from Fairmont. Under certain circumstances, the license may be terminated or revoked according to its terms in which case neither the Residences nor any part of the Resort will be identified as a Fairmont branded project or have any rights to use the Trademarks. Fairmont does not make any representations or guarantees with respect to the Residences or the Resort and is not responsible for the Developer’s marketing practices including this website, advertising, and sales representations. Fairmont is not acting in a joint venture with the Developer.
RLH Properties shall reserve the right to make changes, corrections, cancel and/or improve at any time all information of the Website and its Contents, even without prior notice.
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