Deep dive with Emilio Izquierdo Merlo, CEO of Maraey and IDB Brasil

IDB Brasil’s Maraey mega mixed-use development in Maricá, near Rio de Janeiro, is making waves with its innovative and sustainable ambitions, so we quizzed the CEO on what we can expect from the project.

Emilio Izquierdo Merlo outlined how the recent multiple signing with Marriott International will dovetail with Maraey’s US$2.1 billion private investment to create a hotel and residential complex different from anything else in Brazil.

Why did you decide to partner with Marriott International for three hotels within the Maraey development?

The Maraey agreement with Marriott, the largest hotel company in the world, reinforces our commitment to create a tourist centre of excellence located only 45 km from Rio de Janeiro. The chain is a world leader and owns the most exclusive and luxurious hotel brands in the world. 

Maraey and Marriott have common values, such as a focus on quality, excellence in service, and client experience, with credibility, social responsibility, and a commitment to the environment.

We are delighted with and proud of this partnership. It will leverage Brazil’s tourist potential, bringing an exclusive leisure experience, comfort, and wellness by the sea, bordered by the region’s exuberant nature, and making Maricá one of the most sought-after sustainable destinations internationally. 

Why did you choose those particular brands – Ritz-Carlton Reserve, JW Marriott, and Autograph Collection?

In addition to the quality assurance and management of the Marriott chain, the brands represent exclusive client services and experiences and are aligned with our cultural, social, and environmental values. Each has high sustainability, innovation, design, and quality parameters, including myriad experiences for guests and residents.

Adding to all of that is the novelty of having brands not currently available in Brazil or South America, such as Ritz-Carlton Reserve — considered one of the most exclusive hotel brands with only five hotels in the word — and the innovative Rock in Rio Autograph Collection, the first thematic hotel of the revered festival brand. And the high-luxury JW Marriott will be one of the brand’s first all-inclusive resorts in the world. 

All of that has been carefully planned to offer leisure, comfort, and wellness options to the most discriminating travellers.

What criteria will you use to decide on the suppliers for these hotels’ outfits?

The leading firm behind the design of the three hotels and branded residences signed with Marriott (The Ritz-Carlton Reserve Marica, JW Marriott Hotel at Maraey and Rock in Rio, Autograph Collection) is the architecture and engineering studio Grupo Abacus, from Spain.

However, from now on, together with Marriott’s global design team, we need to join forces with new companies in the areas of FF&E, procurement, project management, construction, and so forth. The main criteria to decide those new companions shall be, besides their technical capacity, background/expertise and economic terms, focused on their standards of ESG: how committed they are with environmental issues; how they deal with social responsibility; and what are their actions and compliance procedures in terms of governance.

Will there be any other hotels within the development?

Yes, Maraey will also have a hotel designed to be the most iconic beachfront seaside convention resort in the country. We will announce its brand in the future.

How are you considering sustainability across the whole site?

The project is based on sustainable development ESG principles and is a signatory of the UN’s Global Compact. Maraey is in the Maricá Environmental Protection Unit (APA in Portuguese), a sustainable-use conservation unit on private lands with an area set aside for occupation. Maraey’s fundamental assets are protecting the environment and investment in academic research.

That is why we will create the second largest Restinga Natural Heritage Private Reserve (RPPN) in Rio de Janeiro state and the fifth in Brazil. The new conservation unit is extremely important to the community and the state’s environmental history and ensures the complete and permanent protection of the local ecosystems.

We will also have the Environmental Reference Center (CRA) in partnership with the five most important universities in the country (UFRRJ, UFF, UFESO, FURG e UFRJ) to study and map the local fauna and flora to deepen the research on the region’s natural heritage.

What innovations will be incorporated in the development?

In partnership with Siemens, Maraey will implement information and communications technology, making it the first Smart City in the country. The local transportation system will be electric, which will diminish the emissions of pollutants into the air. Extensive technologies will be used in the following areas: smart building, energy, sanitation, electric mobility, telecommunications, digital services and sustainability.

The project will be a new smart neighbourhood, and the automation and digitalisation offered by Siemens will ingeniously process the data collected throughout the complex inside the brain of the system, MindSphere. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and prior programming, the project will be able to analyse and decide on the best actions in each case for real-time decision-making.

What is the project’s timeline and when do you expect the hotels to open?

The start of construction work for the three Maraey Marriott luxury hotels is the third/fourth quarter of 2023. We expect the hotels to open two years following the beginning of construction.

Is IDB Brasil involved in any further hotel projects across Brazil?

Maraey is an innovative and unprecedented watershed project for the sustainable development of the region and Brazil, with 500,000 tourists annually. Therefore, we are entirely dedicated to making this dream a reality, which will be a legacy for the current and future generations.

Maricá’s Sun Coast will undoubtedly become one of the most sought-after international sustainable destinations. The region has great biodiversity and rare natural heritage combining forest, ocean, and lake, making for a unique scenic composition. Maraey’s 840 hectares include 8.5 km of beaches, a 12-km lake shore, and the only beachfront piece of land available in Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan region.

How do you see Maraey and IDB Brasil progressing in the coming years?

We have a strategic plan focused and detailed for the next five years, which foresees the execution of the main projects that consolidate Maraey as the best mixed-use development in the world, able to change the dynamics of tourism and real estate in Brazil and Latin America.

Based on ESG principles and responsible investment criteria (with over 400 specific actions already agreed upon as part of the UN’s Global Compact and linked to the 17 sustainable development goals), Maraey’s 2023 focus is on the infrastructure execution and the beginning of construction of the 1,100 hotel units and 244 branded residences.

In 2024 and 2025, we will complement the first phase of the development by building more residential units (over 1,000 apartments addressed to first/primary homes) and primary services such as a hospital, shopping centre, school, etc.