Influencers

Kike Sarasola
President & Founder of Room Mate Hotels

What do you need to be successful in the board game, Monopoly? You need to be daring, ambitious, and competitive. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it’s Kike Sarasola’s (president and founder of Room Mate Hotels) favorite game. As a child, he was captivated by its entrepreneurial spirit which ultimately shaped his dream of becoming a successful businessman. We’re going to tell you how Sarasola jumped into the hospitality world, how he developed Room Mate Hotels, and three pieces of his most inspirational, professional advice.

1. From Expert Horse Rider to Expert Hotelier

Kike Sarasola broke records for equestrianism in Spain and successfully competed in three Olympic Games: Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, and Sydney 2000. It was during Athens 2004, that his career came to an end after he sustained a severe back injury.

As an equestrian champion, Sarasola regularly traveled across the globe. He spent an extraordinary amount of time in hotels, at certain stages; he was virtually living in hotels. This allowed him to analyze every detail of the properties and compare them with others. He would take into account the treatment he received from the staff, the overall design, and the facilities on offer amongst other things. In a sense, he became a hotel expert before properly joining the hospitality world.

"It’s obvious, hospitality chose me. Because I always lived in hotels when I was competing with horses and I love hotels. The world of hotels is magical."

After a trip to New York with his husband and Room Mate’s Vice President, Carlos Marrero, the couple realized that they had hardly been in the hotel or used any of the amenities. They’d spent a lot of money to stay in the hotel and were also located very far from the heart of the city.

Afterward, they both reflected, along with their friend Gorka Atorrasagasti, on the hotels they’d stayed in and came to the conclusion: there wasn’t a hotel chain that prided itself on being trendy, affordable, and centrally located. They were determined to change this.

They then set to create Room Mate Hotels, a concept that went against the general trend of hotels. They removed additional features that they deemed unnecessary but made sure that the essentials were flawless. This was when Sarasola used his previous experiences and incorporated his favorite elements from properties across the world.

2. A Room Mate Revolution

In 2005, Room Mate Mario opened its doors in the city center of the Spanish capital, Madrid. Since then, Room Mate has opened 25 more hotels worldwide and plans to increase that number to 37 by 2020.

The aim of Room Mate Hotels is to make guests feel like they’re arriving at a friend's house. That’s why each hotel also has a name that’s typical in the hotel’s location. For example, hotel Pau in Barcelona, hotel Emir in Istanbul, and hotel Luca in Florence, to name just a few.

Room Mate Hotels differentiate themselves by providing you with free “total Wi-Fi.” You’re given a Wi-Fi device to keep you connected on the go so you can instantly find your way to top local brunch spots and post an awesome Instagram Story. They also focus on making your trip as memorable as possible by offering the best hospitality service. And for those party animals, they also serve breakfast until noon!

It’s been a winning formula so far as the brand is now looking to expand even more. New properties have recently appeared in cities like Paris, Sicily, and Rotterdam. There are also plans to launch in other chic and desirable locations such as Rome, Gran Canaria, Mallorca, Naples, and Lisbon very soon.

This bold expansion plan requires an almost endless amount of time, hard work, and dedication. But Sarasola doesn’t shy away, he embraces the challenge and seeks to achieve even more. True to his ambitious and trendsetting nature, he is also the president of other businesses. One of them is BeMate, an apartment rental platform, which allows users to make the most of hotel services while staying in one of 10,000 designers apartments worldwide.

Sarasola has had an enormous effect on a local and global scale in the hospitality industry, and 0this hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2014, the Spanish government awarded him with the Gold Medal for Innovation, which he considers to be his greatest achievement. Sarasola told us that this award meant that other hoteliers had to finally accept that he “...was a hotelier because before they didn’t.”

3. Kike Sarasola’s Aspirational Advice

More often than not, an interviewee is asked for the best advice they’ve ever received so that others can use it to enhance their career or life. In the case of Kike Sarasola, he has provided us with the worst advice he’s ever received so that you don’t make this fundamental mistake:

"The worst advice, I think I’ve ever received, is when somebody has told me, use your head and not your heart. I think you should always listen to your heart."

When talking about employees and CVs, Sarasola says that he prefers to hire and work with risk-takers. Those that have grit, determination, and an adventurous mindset are the people he wants to drive his visionary brand forward.

"I want to hear more about your failures instead of your successes. Because if you’ve failed and you’ve come back that shows me that you’re a person who really tries."

We believe this is a fantastic attitude to adopt. You should never be afraid to take a risk as it’ll always serve as a lesson. It’s much worse to constantly play safe and think “what if?” This leads us to one of Sarasola’s professional mantras which he claims stems from his impatience. He confesses that he prefers his teams to approach all tasks in a super proactive manner.

"Don’t leave for tomorrow, what you can do today."

Sarasola’s commitment and passion for the hospitality industry are undeniable. He’s been on a whirlwind, professional journey but has always remained focused on fulfilling his long term goal. He leaped from the world of showjumping into hospitality and demonstrated that change is always possible if you put your mind to it.

Want to see more exclusive interviews from season 1? Watch 3-Michelin Star Chef, Anne-Sophie Pic here and Accor Co-founder, Paul Dubrule here. Stay tuned for more episodes!