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Leisure Media - Carlos Couturier


Carlos Couturier

The co-founder of stylish Mexican boutique hotel company Grupo Habita tells Magali Robathan about his plans for the group and what drives him

Magali Robathan, CLAD mag
Carlos Couturier
Hotel Habita in Mexico City is the flagship of Grupo Habita
Hotel Habita in Mexico City is the flagship of Grupo Habita
Hotel Habita in Mexico City is the flagship of Grupo Habita
Before launching Grupo Habita, Carlos Couturier was a citrus farmer
Mexico City's Distrito Capital has 17 rooms and 13 suites

How and when was the idea for launching Grupo Habita born? 
We started the construction of our first hotel in 1996 and we opened Hotel Habita in Mexico City in 2000. At the time, my business partners Moises and Rafael Micha were investment bankers and I was exporting perishables. We didn’t really want to be hoteliers, but we couldn’t find anyone to manage the hotel, so we split up the responsibilities and became hoteliers in our spare time. 

We soon realised that managing a hotel was a full time job. Within a few years we were all 100 per cent involved in the hotel operation. 

What sets Grupo Habita hotels apart from other operations?
Our original sense of aesthetics. The smiles of our staff. Our choices of location and the communities that we have built around us.

What is the philosophy of Grupo Habita?
To be authentic, simple and ageless. 

What is your role?
I'm in charge of development. I get to do the fun part!

How difficult was it to get your first hotel open?
We were very naive and inexperienced back then. It all just seemed easy and fun – I guess we were young and full of drive. It seems so much more difficult now – we have become more demanding of ourselves. 

How do you ensure that each of your hotels has its own personality?
By never repeating ourselves.

How do you choose the designers for your hotels?
By pure instinct. We choose talented and committed creative minds, who are not over-exposed. 

What elements do you need to take into account when planning a new hotel?
We always like to surprise people, either through the location, the architecture, the food concept or the choices of contemporary art pieces displayed in the hotels. 

What do you look for in a potential location? 
An interesting community. Our neighbours always make us look good and are usually our main promoters.

Why do you think your hotels have been such a success?
Hard work and a great team. 

What is your long-term plan?
We would like to stay focused on what we are already doing. We don't like to open more than one hotel a year. We are currently working on a project in Tulum, Mexico.

Where do you get your influences from?

How important is it to be environmentally-friendly?
It is very important for us to build sustainable hotels with energy-saving rooms. We use recycled materials and work with local artisans. To stay simple is to stay eco-friendly. 

What have been your highest and lowest points since launching Grupo Habita?
The highest point was opening Hotel Americano in New York City in 2011. The lowest point has been taking forever to finish our Tulum project. 

Who do you admire in business?
French entrepreneurs like [billionaire businessman] François Pinault and the perfurmer Frederic Malle. 

What do you do in your leisure time? 
I travel, swim, ski, take naps and go jogging with my dogs. 

Where are you happiest? 
Spending time in the company of my two sons and my closest friends, sailing the Turkish Aegean sea. 

What drives you?
My faith in God.

Grupo habita

Grupo Habita is a design-led, Mexican boutique hotel company, with 11 properties in Mexico and one in New York, USA. Its first property, Habita Hotel, opened in Mexico City in 2000 and its first outside Mexico, Hotel Americano, opened in New York’s Chelsea district in 2011.

The hotels have won numerous awards for their design, including the 2010 Wallpaper Design Award for Hotel MTY in Monterrey, Mexico, and the 2012 Hospitality Design award for Most Unique Hospitality Setting for its mountainside bungalows at Endemico Resguardo Silvestre, Mexico (see main picture above).

Different teams of interior designers and architects are used for each hotel to ensure each one is completely unique – from the ultra modern Distrito Capital in Mexico City to the former 19th century estate which has been transformed into the nine-room Maison Couturier in Veracruz, Mexico. Each is designed to complement the neighbourhood it sits in – while Grupo Habita has a strong focus on art, New York’s Hotel Americano doesn’t feature any artwork on its walls because its owners say they didn’t want to compete with the local galleries and artists that Chelsea is so famed for.


The latest hotel, Downtown Mexico, opened in Mexico City in June 2012

Originally published in Leisure Management 2013 issue 1
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