Gutsy Genius Thinker

“We need to think of the hospitality sector as an ‘experience’, not just a commodity.

RAUL LEAL – then CEO, Virgin Hotels

Raul Leal

Miami, Florida

Developing a well-recognized hotel brand that has a wide range of disparate brand affiliates from trains, planes, and spacecraft could have been a nightmare. As Raul said, “We didn’t want a big red box Virgin Hotel.” The end result was a design that could transform over time, that is a comfortable place to hang out, with technology taking a role but not dominating the experience. Richard Branson noted during a visit that there was a “lack of Virgin in your face,” with a dash of red via a SMEG fridge in each room; essentially the essence of Virgin.

Adapting is nothing new to this GGT. As a first-generation Cuban immigrant, Raul developed his career in hospitality while he was based in Miami with Desires Hotels and Tecton Hospitality. “I have been fortunate to grow up through the ranks and eventually become a hotel owner, a partner in a progressive hotel management company, and now CEO and partner for one of the world’s most progressive brands.” Glenn and Sean interviewed Raul when C-19 was gaining momentum with a follow-up on Glenn’s show “NoVacancy” in April 2020. Ever consistent, his perspective is long and positive that there are opportunities for the Virgin Hotel brand to grow as the property market is reshaped. Never miss an opportunity to adapt and take advantage.

Raul’s Adapters Tips

  • If you have a different point of view on something, follow it through to the end and see if it’s viable or not
  • Don’t just focus on eliminating consumer dis-satisfiers—take time over the concept phase to develop something utterly unique
  • Don’t nickel-and-dime the consumers. They always know they are being nickel-and-dimed
  • The devil is in the details. Consumers notice the details, and they know when you’re paying attention
  • You can walk into a hotel and right away know if there is love in the hotel. “Love” is somebody taking care of the details