Posted in People on 1 May, 2024

Born out of a shared passion for architecture, design, and contemporary art, Carlos Couturier joined forces with brothers Jaime, Moisés, and Rafael Micha—and launched Grupo Habita, the brand behind Mexico’s chicest hotels.

Now in its 24th year Couturier discusses the original concept, the importance of kindness and keeping it local with SPACE.

Could you share Grupo Habita’s founding story?
Grupo Habita began in 2000 with the launch of a minimalist hotel in Mexico City – HABITA hotel – which took four years to build. We built the first pool on a rooftop – now it’s not unusual, but 24 years ago we started this trend! We wanted to put Mexico City on the global map of lifestyle cities, and considering how Mexico City is perceived today, I think we were successful. Since then, we have built one hotel a year.

Otro Oaxaca, Mexico

What was the original inspiration behind the launch of the brand?
The foundations of the brand were: good architecture, creative interiors and graphic design and a sense of location. Since then, we have evolved into a brand that cares about sustainability, culture, kindness and tolerance.

What do your respective roles in Grupo Habita involve today?
I oversee development. I am always looking for new talents in all fields related to hospitality – from architecture, design and gastronomy right through to music concepts, wellness proposals and sustainability. Making sure our hotels age well, and in the case of new projects, that they are fresh, innovative, and with a purpose. My role in the company has become more about quality than quantity.

Moisés has always been involved with development decisions too – where to build a new property and choosing the ideal architect or interior designer. However, over time, and with many more hotels to manage, he also directs the operational aspect of the company.

First up was HABITA hotel, now over 20 years old. What were the challenges of that project in comparison to one of your more recent hotels?
Our first hotel was designed to be – and still is – an oasis of peace and calm in the chaos of Mexico City. Contemporary architecture, a full floor dedicated to Wellness and a rooftop pool and bar. We created the first hotel of its kind in Latin America, and a whole generation of Mexicans and foreigners have unique memories of good times spent in this property.

I believe the challenge then was to stay cool and relevant. The challenge today is to create a strong identity – to build timeless and innovative properties. The financial aspect of the business has become more crucial.

What was the original concept behind Grupo Habita hotels, and how has it evolved over the years?
The concept of Grupo Habita Hotels has evolved very little. The aim for each hotel is to always be different, but there are common threads that link them all: lots of good natural light and ventilation in the rooms, and a balcony or terrace.  Organic materials and no plastic! Comfortable and innovative design with endemic touches. Always a Wellness component and an openair rooftop with a pool, along with healthy food, fresh produce and kind, tolerant staff.

The newly opened Otro Oaxaca, Mexico

What do you consider the most and least enjoyable aspects of launching a hotel?
For me, the most enjoyable aspect comes in selecting the team: the architect, the designers, the chef, the music programmer. The least enjoyable, of course, is the hangover the day after of the opening night!

What kind of traveller does a Grupo Habita hotel attract?
Smart, creative, and easy-going people.

What do you think the future of the hotel experience looks like?
My fear is human-less hotels, managed exclusively by artificial intelligence.

I believe the human aspect of a hotel is the most relevant one. Technology is rapidly catching up and more and more, the guest is just becoming a number. Many new hospitality formulas are kindness-free, cold, and aseptic. The counterculture of this advanced technological progress is hospitality that cares about the wellbeing of the soul – where the hotel experience is not numerical, but one where you feel pampered, and when you place a call, you hear a real voice and not a recording.

The rooftop at Hotel Condesa DF, Mexico

Now well-established with 15 design-led hotels (most of which are in Mexico), what do you believe Grupo Habita represents/has contributed to the Mexican design and hospitality scene?
Grupo Habita is the pioneer of a new hospitality industry in Mexico.

We are an example, both home and abroad of offering an innovative form of creative accommodation. Many independent hotel groups have emerged globally based on the same principles of our philosophy.

What do you look for in a new site location?
Authenticity. Surprise. A sense of community.

What is your process for selecting designers and architects for each project, and how involved are you with the creative/design strategy?
By pure instinct. I am usually very involved in the creative process, and the criteria is to keep our eyes and ears open to new talents. We like diversity and have collaborated with French, Italian, American and Spanish talent as well as Mexican. For example, our soon-to-open hotel in La Punta Zicatela, Oaxaca, has been conceived by Mexican architect – Jorge De La Garza.  The interior design studio is Plantea out of Madrid, Spain. The graphic design by a young studio named Otro bureau, and the music concept by Musical Solutions. The cultural activations will be directed by a young Mexican contemporary artist Avantgardo. This is the first time we have worked with any of these creative minds – and it is also the first time any of them have worked on a hotel project.

As a collection of art and design focused hotels, how does each property work with the cultural landscape of its locality?
In full synchrony with the cultural landscape. Our newest property in Oaxaca City is a perfect example: OTRO Oaxaca, was conceived by a Portuguese architect Root Studio, whose roots are in Oaxaca, and the hotel was built by Oaxacan artisan experts using local materials – clay, steel, wood and stone. The Artworks found throughout the property come from a local street art collective named Subterráneos and the Wellness principles are based in the use of regional herbolaria (herbs with healing powers). We deliver food bought daily from the local market and we encourage the guests to go to those places only frequented by locals. Places not listed on Google Maps!

Hotel Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

In terms of sustainability, how do you think the hotel industry could do better?
By using existing buildings instead of building new ones from scratch. We have a preference to reuse existing buildings – to give these properties a new life. For example, our properties Habita, Condesa DF, Circulo Mexicano, Downtown Hotel, La Purificadora, Casa Habita, The Robey, Hotel Escondido in Oaxaca, Maison Couturier and OTRO Oaxaca, are all formed from existing buildings. Giving new life to abandoned old properties is as sustainable as it can be.

Are there plans to expand the group beyond Mexico and the US?
We would love to open a hotel in southern Europe. Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Greece are all cultures we understand. Or on the contrary, bring a little of our Latin American culture to the Northern European Sea.

Do you have a favourite hotel from the collection, whether for sentimental reasons or based on the design you most enjoy?
Always the last one.  Like in a family – where the newborn is always the favourite!

Finally, do you have a ‘hotelier ambition’ you have not yet fulfilled, and if so, could you share it with us?
I do. To be the chef of one of our kitchens.  Work there on daily basis. From breakfast to dinner. But first I need to learn to cook properly!



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