Felipe Arranz, executive consultant of Villa Padierna Hotels & Resorts, is extremely optimistic about the great future that awaits the renowned Costa del Sol complex, comprising three golf courses and the prestigious hotel where the former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and one of her daughters stayed in 2010.

And even more so now that the iconic Villa Padierna Palace is being managed by one of the world’s leading brands in the world of exclusive luxury hotel operations, Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, part of the Minor Hotels chain, which has 600 establishments in more than 50 countries and owns such brands as NH Hotel Group. Of Asian origins, the chain will operate the aforementioned hotel and Villa Padierna Thermas Hotel, in Carratraca (Málaga), on a rental and management basis.

From now on, the hotel will be known as Anantara Villa Padierna Palace Marbella-Benahavís Resort and will be the second property operated under this name in Europe. Anantara has already been managing the Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal for several months. Worldwide, the brand has 50 luxury hotels, mainly in Asia, and now its intention is to move strongly into the European market. It has started with these two golf resorts on the Iberian Peninsula, and the next project is located on the Amalfi coast of Italy.

With three 18-hole golf courses, the Michael Campbell Golf Academy, a beach club, a racquet club with 22,000 square metres for sports activities (tennis, pádel and croquet), a 2,000 square metre spa and medical wellness complex, the five-star hotel, eight restaurants, and luxurious and diverse real estate developments, there is no doubt that Villa Padierna is one of the premier golf resorts not only in Spain but throughout Europe.

Felipe Arranz (handicap 9.2 on paper but two figures in practice, as he confesses), who graduated in business administration from the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas in Madrid and the Hochscule Reutlingen in Munich (Germany), is convinced that the agreement signed with Minor Hotels will have a positive impact on the entire resort. "It’s a great agreement for both parties and the resort will benefit greatly," he says.

What are the implications for the resort of this agreement with Minor Hotels?

Minor Group will manage the entire resort except the sports area, which includes the three golf courses, the academy and the racquet club. They will take care of the hotel, including the spa, and the seven culinary establishments: the four restaurants inside the hotel plus the beach club, La Cantina del Golf and the restaurant that serves the racquet club.

Apart from the seven restaurants that Anantara Hotels will manage directly, the resort will have a new addition before summer, Sushi 99, a renowned Japanese restaurant with establishments in Madrid, Barcelona and Abu Dhabi, which is planning to open others in Dubai, Los Angeles, London and a country in eastern Europe.

What will happen to the golf courses?

In principle, the golf amenities will stay with the Villa Padierna Group. We have been using a fairly defined strategy for two years now, trying to highlight the name and identify the courses by their individual features. We have three 18-hole courses. The main one in the resort will be Flamingos, which is located around the hotel and is the commercial course, the course that, as it were, sells our golf amenities. It is an easy layout, with very good views and quite enjoyable.

Then we have Alferini, which is our championship course, the course that extends more into the mountain, where you practically play alone. You don’t have houses, you don’t have noises around, so it's a very interesting course. It’s a long, complicated layout with water coming into play, which is more dedicated to clients with reduced handicaps, so to speak, but which is enjoying good acceptance among all customers from central and northern Europe.

And finally there is Tramores, which is half pitch-and-putt and half a normal golf course and is focused more than anything on teaching. We want to combine it with the academy that we have with Michael Campbell, the 2005 US Open champion, who beat Tiger Woods. Together with him we want to develop a new concept of teaching golf where the student is not only on the driving range but also able to go out to enjoy a couple of golf holes, see different situations and be able to correct mistakes and thus work on their golf.

As the golf club is growing and so is the number of members, our goal is to provide a clubhouse that they warrant, and this will be located in Alferini, which will allow us to have a centralised clubhouse that is part of both Alferini and Flamingos and much closer to the driving range, which is now a bit far away. This means that the distribution of the courses will also make more sense.

What sets Villa Padierna apart from other resorts with golf courses on the Costa del Sol?

What we offer is a very defined product that focuses on a high-end clientele and luxury product. We offer top-quality facilities, from the hotel to the restaurants - and the golf courses, of course - and we focus a lot on customer service, with a great welcome and constant attention from entering our resort until leaving. What we are offering is not simply to come and play a golf course, but a very pleasant experience in every way. You could say that excellence is our hallmark.

In the residential sphere, what real estate products does Villa Padierna have available?

When the resort was purchased, around five million square metres were acquired. We developed the first and second phase, which is where the hotel and the golf courses are located, and all the real estate products, which represent around 1,000 homes, both single-family and Mediterranean villages and apartments. Now the future is the development of the second phase, comprising 192 single-family plots. It is a concept that we want to develop in an urbanisation within an urbanisation, thus enhancing the safety and privacy of residents. We are receiving a lot of demand from both foreign and national investors. The starting price will be between €600 and €800 per square metre and we are talking about plots of 2,200 square metres or more.

Felipe Arranz tackles the issue of the Costa del Sol’s future when it comes to tourism and the residential market with optimism despite signs of an economic slowdown that could even prelude a period of recession, according to different sources. "We are well positioned and we have to know how to take advantage of Marbella as a brand. We have to develop this rough diamond that we have, and I think we are still not aware of that.”

In his opinion, “It is necessary to work together, with the other businesspeople, which in a way is what we have lacked in recent years. We must try to join forces, strengthen the brand and develop everything at the level that it warrants. And not focusing on facile and short-term businesses but on long-term strategies where we all head in the same direction and we all empower each other, because surely, as my father says (Ricardo Arranz, president of Villa Padierna Group), the best years of Marbella are coming and that is when we have to be attentive and not miss the opportunities.”

With his extensive work and responsibilities as executive consultant to the Villa Padierna Group, Felipe Arranz does not play golf as much as he would like, but he hopes to reverse the situation slightly. "The truth," he says, "is that last year I was a little obsessed because, considering that we own several courses, we had to perform, so to speak, on the golf courses. My goal then was to get below two digits and last summer I managed to reach a handicap of 9.2. Now I clearly do not maintain that but I will have to take up the challenge again for summer, as friendships and commitments are renewed, and I’ll need to be in form again.”

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