12 Dec Arlandis: “I encourage anyone who has an idea to follow their dream”
Marisa Arlandis went from working in banking to starting a new life as the owner of a holiday cottage. Although she states that it was difficult at the beginning, she fulfilled her dream: “Making this leap has been a great adventure”. In this interview, she tells us what this change meant and how it was to launch her project.
How did you go from working in banking to running a holiday cottage?
It was a project I had in mind for some years. 11 years ago I decided to buy my grandparent’s house from my family and to restore it little by little, keeping its traditional style and respecting the original building materials, such as the terracotta flooring, the stone walls and the wooden beams. I worked on it in my free time for several years, combining the gardening, the painting and the restoration of the furniture we got from my grandmother. I always thought that I would retire here and that I would run my rural hotel in the future. Luckily I’ve been able to launch this project some years earlier than planned.
Was it a radical change, personally?
Never having a holiday, not being able to make plans and not having economic stability doesn’t sound appealing, but I’m doing what I want, I’ve turned my leisure into my job. I think that it is a dream. Making this leap has been a great adventure and a major life change. The one thing I value most is the flexibility and the possibility of arranging my working hours and, therefore, being able to spend more time with my family.
I’ve switched from the office to an open air job looking for activities in this region or in Valencia so that our guests have a schedule full of events when they get here. I visit wineries, sport clubs and restaurants; I look for mountain trails… I never stop, but I don’t have a fixed schedule. It’s fantastic!
Was it difficult at the beginning?
There isn’t a survival guide for when you decide to start your own business. Difficult, I think that’s the best word to describe it. To start this adventure you have to be a multi-tasking person ready for anything. My experience was useful to overcome many of the pitfalls encountered along the way, but, despite this, they were no less hard.
Deadlines and expectations are never met. You are the one who gets things started, follows them and even runs them at times. Going for differentiation, quality and service, and entering into new markets is not easy. There’s a public waiting for us, but we have to reach it. Now I can breathe and even smile again. This is a long-term project, we’ve come here to stay and I’m already reaping the fruits of the work that has been done.
I encourage anyone who has an idea to follow their dream; to put all their effort into it and turning their idea into a business. Having an entrepreneurial spirit is great, but only as something that lasts for five minutes, since our mind has to change quickly into the entrepreneur mode or you get driven out of the market.
What has the hospitality industry brought into your life?
Our activity is mainly related to leisure and our business model is very participatory. Our guests are always in the mood to laugh and enjoy our proposals and, to a large extent, we end up living those experiences. That positivism is transmitted and the stream of energy reverts to the new guests that will visit the region in the future.
I like the relationship I maintain with them and the new friends I make along the way. I think there are still great opportunities in this sector. We’ve got a fantastic climate, healthcare, economic and legal stability, and greater security than in other parts of the world. All this is a combination of positive things that, in addition to the location of our cottage, surrounded by natural parks and only a few kilometres away from the Mediterranean coast, and our intention to offer a quality, comfortable service, are our great differentiating values. That is what gave me enough energy to go for this project.
Did you follow any advice when decorating and choosing the linens for your establishment?
Surrounding yourself by experts is essential to achieve a quality establishment that is different from the rest. The advice by sector experts like Resuinsa’s has been the key to achieve the comfort and, at the same time, the look I was looking for. The experience of their teams and the way they advise you have paved the way. Entering their offices is like being at home. And as soon as you are there, you want to be part of it.
I’ve combined my ideas and my personal taste with the warmth and the quality of their linens, which are a key to the memories of a holiday. That is what will remain with us as a reference for the establishment and what, to a great extent, will make you decide whether to return to it or not. I wanted to keep the essence of the space, but offering the warmth of the rooms of a grand hotel with their extra cosy beds.
I’ve always gone for differentiation and I think that, teaming up with them, I’ve achieved it.
How does a holiday cottage generate experiences for the traveller?
The possibilities of generating unique experiences in a holiday cottage are endless, since your usual way of life is mixed with that of the country you are visiting. I believe that a very enriching fusion of cultures takes place in the space, since it is experienced between walls full of history, in small villages that still keep the taste of the old times, with the scent of the country when you open the window. You can breathe fresh air, see the colour of the sky and cook your food on a fire. However, in essence, all this is always directed by your own likings; when you choose to cook yourself at home, new flavours, different from the original, are surely generated and they will be the fruit of the traditions of the visitor’s country of origin. Their own experience is what they will take back home with them.
What do we do? We let our imagination run wild and then in team with our guests we arrange a tailor-made trip, but always based on a winery experience. This is easy for us, since we are surrounded by vineyards and wineries with centuries of winemaking tradition. We have a well-developed cuisine of our own, which attracts the attention of many people, and, moreover, we are only a few minutes away from several natural parks with great possibilities for outdoor leisure activities.
Furthermore, we are 35 minutes away from Valencia, so we provide a complete offer which is very interesting for the visitors coming from far away, since this short distance allows us to combine: countryside + mountain + wine + sports + city + culture + entertainment + beach.
What is the profile of the travellers that opt for rural tourism?
I think that a change in the trends and the preferences is taking place. As we offer quality and service and provide all kinds of activities, I believe our audience is anyone who wishes to get away from their everyday routine, but away from the big cities and the fast pace of life in them. From groups of friends that look for getaways to wineries or for sports; meditation or yoga groups; couples on a romantic getaway; or companies that seek different spaces to develop their activities outside the walls of their offices; to families that spend time with their children in the countryside cycling or doing any other activities. All of them are our guests. Much of our work consists of thinking openly, precisely to make this space inclusive, either for leisure or work. From babies to elderly people, we’ll make everyone enjoy rural tourism and live an experience they will surely want to repeat. Our rural offer is complete in every way and, therefore, very appealing.