By Lisa Coleman
There are few things that truly leave me speechless… but when I read the Kor Hotel Group was changing the name of the newly acquired Villa del Sol in Zihuatanejo, I was sitting at my computer with my mouth agape… no sound, just complete and utter disbelief. I am mortified and mystified all at the same time.
This isn’t just any hotel; it’s a landmark, a legend, a giant and a pioneer in luxury in Mexico. If you have been around this business at all, for any period of time over the last 30 years, you know the name Villa del Sol. In what high-powered board room or overstuffed office could a bunch of gringos actually believe that it would make sense to change the name of a property with this kind of clout? Really, who is the genius marketing guy who (certainly knows NOTHING about Mexico) that sold this bag of goods to the head honcho? Talk about a branding disaster! Villa del Sol was a brand, is a brand, and personifies what it takes to build a name. This is an icon built by hand and groomed over years and years to establish itself as the pinnacle of success in the Mexico hotel business.
Tides Zihuatanejo. That’s the brilliant new name. It keeps in step with the “BRAND.” How dare they? I mean would a new studio have changed John Wayne’s name to “Joe the Cowboy?” Would Elvis’ new manager have decided it would be a better fit if we knew him as “The Memphis Singer?” Seriously, what a disastrous decision this is by Kor. Not just for the wonderful hotel staff who consider this property with such pride and dignity, but also for the guests… guests who have made a tradition of Villa del Sol and what it stands for and what it is about. Seems Kor has no idea who these people are or what it means to honor something that has been built from the ground up as a fulfillment of a dream and a labor of love. I do know who these guests are and I do know who the staff is, and I can tell you, there won’t be one smiling face when this marketing and public relations wheel of nightmares begins to turn.
By now you’ve probably noticed this is personal for me….very personal. I am the author of the only book ever written about the property. In 2003, I spent an entire year writing the book: 25 Years in Paradise…Hotel Villa del Sol. At the personal request of the original owner, Helmut Leins, I wrote the story of his life, the story of this hotel. I have spent the last 14 years of my life as one of those regular guests.
To quote from the book: “In the early 1970’s, some of Mexico’s most enticing beaches were yet to be discovered. A young, adventurous German engineer named Helmut W. Leins wanted to change that. He conceived a resort so intimate and so exclusive that it would forever define luxury in Mexico.” I guess now chain hotels and big dollar corporations define it.
I spoke to Helmut just before the hotel sold. His life’s work was being turned over to a big name chain so he could pursue time with his family and children in Miami. He was sure this was the right thing. Though we haven’t talked since this ridiculous announcement, I have to wonder if my dear friend Helmut is as devastated as I am.
Well, for Helmut’s sake, and the sake of the staff at Villa del Sol, I hope Kor tries to hold on to some semblance of respect for what this property has been to so many. Though I doubt that will happen. It is a special place of unique beauty that sadly now is just a cog in the Kor machine.
I have no idea now where to tell you to find my book as it was sold in the rooms at the hotel. Here is a link to an excerpt. I only have a few copies left of my own, but I will treasure them and the memories. To me, there can only be one Villa del Sol, and if Kor thinks the “Tides” will somehow turn for them, I think they are sadly mistaken. http://www.adip.info/2003_2004/dec/05-vdsol.php