Deep dive with Robert Lavia, CEO, UMusic Hotels

Madrid, Spain. Image © Jorge Fernández Salas / Unsplash
With this year’s news that UMusic Hotels is to add a second site in Madrid, Spain, we caught up with the company’s CEO to discover the extent of the brand’s development plans.

Robert Lavia is steering the joint venture between Universal Music Group (UMG) and Dakia U-Ventures towards a bright future, drawing on its roots in both entertainment and hospitality.

What do you think differentiates UMusic Hotels from other high-end brands?

UMusic Hotels is more than a hotel. We want to be spaces of creativity and entertainment, offering our guests a unique and transformative experience, while contributing to the development of the communities and locations where we are present, together with UMG, the world’s largest music and entertainment company. Every destination holds a great story just waiting to be told through its cultural heritage and its music. Through this new concept, we will both help people discover new ways to channel their love for music and the arts and help empower the transformation of communities worldwide through cultural, inspirational, creative and conscious collaboration.

How does UMusic Hotels’ UMG origins influence its development direction?

UMG and Dakia U-Ventures work together to identify and create iconic properties around the world under the UMusic Hotels brand umbrella, leveraging UMG intellectual property for both hotel services and in-hotel ancillary services such as restaurants, retail stores, concert venues, etc. UMG will further contribute to marketing and promotional support, sourcing and managing UMG artists for various projects, and facilitating concerts and performances to occur onsite.

Why did you choose Madrid for UMusic Hotels’ first two sites?

Madrid’s rich cultural legacy, its geographical location and its open-door philosophy, without prejudice of any kind, has encouraged the arrival of big names in the most traditional hotel industry. It is a city full of history, culture and traditions, but also offers vibrant leisure and unparalleled hospitality. This is precisely what we want to transmit in our establishments, allowing guests to experience a different kind of stay, combining the best accommodation with the most enjoyable entertainment. They will feel the soul of the city and all its culture as soon as they step through our doors. UMusic Hotel Madrid was our first opening due to an asset opportunity and has been a successful first proof of concept. The owners of the buildings of our future location, UMusic Hotel Teatro Reina Victoria, became aware of our presence and approached us to collaborate on this new opportunity. We look forward to continuing building awareness and brand presence in such an important destination.

How did the deal for UMusic Hotel Teatro Reina Victoria come about?

We already have a successful proof of concept with UMusic Hotel Madrid. The asset owners came to us with the UMusic Hotel Teatro Reina Victoria opportunity. The new hotel will complement our portfolio with a luxury product in another prime location in Madrid.

How will you sensitively restore the three historic buildings which will house the hotel?

Heritage is one of the pillars of the UMusic Hotels brand’s belief system. We believe that the story of music is anchored by preserving the heritage. Honouring the history of the local community helps us create a shared understanding across generations and cultures. In the case of our first opening in Madrid, the buildings were carefully restored to preserve historic features like the iconic facade while building in modern comforts. The UMusic Hotel Teatro Albéniz remains a cultural symbol of the city, as it was brought back to life and integrated back into the heart of Madrid for locals and visitors to enjoy again. Inside our establishments, as a common thread, we enrich each point of customer experience with artistic elements that inspire locals and visitors to discover and explore how music has a transformative ‘power’ and can contribute to change the world in a positive way. The restoration of the buildings which will make up UMusic Hotel Teatro Reina Victoria is the responsibility of the owners, but will follow local regulations, while preserving the buildings’ historic features and charm.

Your first two hotels are conversions, do you intend to continue in that vein, or will you sign for newbuildings?

This is dependent on opportunities and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Our development team is busy exploring all opportunities and are open to a variety of options, which will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What locations will you be targeting for your expansion?

We have a progressive expansion plan whose main objective is to take our entertainment and hospitality concept to the main cities in the world. Other projects have been signed in Mexico and the United States, among others, including UMusic Hotel Biloxi. We look for locations where entertainment, music and hospitality go hand-in-hand. We are really excited about what we are doing and look forward to introducing UMusic Hotels to the global marketplace.  

Your original launch announcement in 2020 mentioned hotels in Atlanta and Orlando as well as the Biloxi site – are those developments still going ahead?

We still have these plans and look forward to sharing more about these exciting anchor properties in the near future.

What criteria do you use to choose which hotel suppliers to work with?

Another important pillar of the UMusic Hotel belief system is purpose, with the goal of contributing positively to all aspects of the local environment, across culture, music, sustainability, policies and human empowerment. This means supporting local suppliers for the hotels. We’re committed to making a positive impact on the world around us and preserving the environment. This means reducing the use of energy, paper and other disposable items, reducing food waste, and using natural cleaning products. We want to be part of the solution and choosing suppliers which meet our standards for quality and sustainability is an important decision we make.

How do you see UMusic Hotels progressing over the next few years?

As mentioned previously, we have a progressive expansion plan in the works, and once we have additional details confirmed, we will be delighted to share updates.