Five-star dining is delivered courtesy of the feted Asian- Mediterranean fusion of chef Mark Vaessen.

getting that connection again after being at home for such a long time.”

As Mandl is only too happy to admit, there have been some challenging times. Starting an entirely new hospitality concept is difficult at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. “The biggest challenge has been getting the word out and translating that to our clients,” he says. “It’s never easy starting a hotel concept from scratch.” There’s also the tricky balancing act of ensuring guests feel safe and secure, but also relaxed. Too many protocols and vacationers are likely to become irritated. Too few and they may feel unsafe, even if social distancing is easier to do when you’re paddling in the largest pool in Ibiza.

Vision of luxury

If Covid-19 has rewritten the rules of hospitality – ushering in contactless check-in and sanitising stations – then economic mobility has brought a new kind of guest to the higher end of the hospitality space. It’s a shift that Mandl has seen develop throughout his career, particularly in the past decade. “When I started in the luxury hotel business, people going to five-star hotels were totally different. Today guests wear shorts or a T-shirt, even though it does cost £2,000 because it’s a Louis Vuitton. The luxury feeling in the hotels is harder to see. It’s all much more laid-back. The clientele is much younger. I think that a lot of people are saving their money so they can have these one-off experiences.” Stylish design principles and a well-thought-out marketing strategy are not enough to thrive in today’s luxury segment alone, particularly when launching a brand in an island that is rapidly diversifying its hotel portfolio. Developing a personalised line of service well


attuned to the preferences of each individual client is now a key point of difference in Ibiza and beyond. “It’s about surprising clients with exceptional service. You can’t define luxury by hotel design anymore. You can’t define it by hotel brands. It’s really about the kind of experience that you give to your clients,” Mandl says. “Back when I started in the hospitality industry, clients travelling in the luxury segment had a clear vision of what luxury is; today you have lots of different perspectives.” He references London’s Savoy hotel as an example. Not only are OKU Ibiza and London’s iconic hotel geographically worlds apart but their offering is too. The Savoy, he says, is a good example of a hospitality venture that plays on well-established traditional UK heritage, rather than delivering the kind of laid-back luxury that he hopes will make OKU successful in the long term. While it’s still early days, Mandl maintains that OKU will not rest on its laurels. Instead, it has its sights fixed on future expansion, with a focus on destinations inspired by nature and local connections – some early success in the Mediterranean could eventually birth a brand with global reach. “At the moment, we’re definitely looking at the Mediterranean area, more or less the Spanish or Greek islands,” Mandl says. “It might be Mallorca, but we’re looking at the Greek islands next to the coast as well. Both offer great possibilities for the brand at the moment. Then after that who knows.” With Ibiza in mind, the launch of the OKU concept feels like another notable addition to an ever-diversifying hospitality portfolio that continues to alter with time and place. A brand selling itself as a refined and tranquil haven on an island famed for hedonism and excess? Stranger things have happened on the White Isle. ●

Hotel Management International /

OKU Hotels

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