TRAVEL - INTERVIEW
Friday, December 14, 2018
TRAVEL - INTERVIEW
by Melisa Kaya
Staying in Santo Domingo is like making a journey to the beginning of continuously inhabited life in the New World. In the Ciudad Colonial, you can visit the first cathedral, monastery, hospital, and palaces of the New World. Staying in Casas del XVI may be another experience for the guests who have an explorer spirit. In Casas del XVI, which consists of buildings dating back to the 16th century, you can stay in differently designed rooms. Casas del XVI promises its guests an unforgettable experience in the oldest continuously inhabited site in the New World. I talked with Ignacio Peñalver, General Manager at Casas del XVI, about Casas del XVI and Santo Domingo.
Ignacio, before talking about Casas del XVI, I would like to learn more about you. Could you tell us about yourself?
I studied hotel management with an emphasis in the area of food and beverage. After several hotel experiences, I had the opportunity to manage a hotel in the center of Barcelona where I first got in contact with Prohotel International. After joining Prohotel, which is the operating company of Casas del XVI, I have managed different hotel projects in Argentina, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. I am also a husband and a proud father of 2 girls and 2 boys!
Casas del XVI
You are not only managing a hotel, but you are also protecting history. How does it feel to carry on the responsibility of Casas del XVI?
It is a privilege for me to have the responsibility and the opportunity to protect this wonderful heritage of the new world. In Casas del XVI we are dedicated to our high standard of customer service but also to the archaeological and historical protection enclosed within these magnificent houses of the XVI, XVII and XVIII centuries.
Casas del XVI is located in the first permanent settlement in the new world, Santo Domingo. Could you tell us about the hospitality culture of Santo Domingo? What does guest mean for you?
The hospitality culture is warm and welcoming, just what you can expect in the Caribbean, but in Santo Domingo, a guest means much more due to the historical and cultural experiences that they will encounter. It is very rewarding to be part of a hospitality culture that values history and embraces the local culture.
Casas del XVI - Luxury Double Room
Could you tell us about Casas del XVI and overall concept?
We are almost like an antithesis of a hotel because we are very different from the traditional hotels of the industry. We have 20 different rooms scattered among 6 houses within a two-block radius, each of them with complete butler service.
Please tell us about Las Casas and the historical building that hosts Casas del XVI.
Casas del XVI is an on-going project of a collection of colonial houses that date from the 16, 17, and 18th century. Since each house that we restore and refurbish has its own history, we never know what we may find within its walls. We have found remnants like artifacts and photos of the 16th century, as well as original arches and wells from the 17th century.
Casas del XVI - Royal Suite-Master Bedroom
Could you tell us about your rooms and suites? What are their features?
Without being pretentious we cannot call any of our units just rooms or suites because we would be deducting its value. Our Luxury Rooms have no comparison in the industry because the guest is surrounded by archeological history while having all the modern comforts and luxuries of a Small Luxury Hotel.
What kind of special services do you offer to your guest for making their stay unforgettable? How could your guests spend time at Casas del XVI?
From the moment the guest arrives, their stay becomes a totally new experience for them. Guests get assigned a Butler at time of check-in and we provide them with an iPhone on loan so they can be in contact with him and our Concierge desk at all times. Being walking distance to all the major monuments, museums and attractions in the Colonial City allow for a magical and stress-free exploration of this historical site. After a busy day out exploring, guests come back to their little oasis in the city and enjoy time at the pool or any of our cozy and relaxing corners to read a book or enjoy tea or coffee.
Casas del XVI - Dining Space
What are the gastronomic features of Casas del XVI and Santo Domingo?
One of the best surprises for our guests is the gastronomy they find at the hotel because we are very creative and have a progressive cuisine. We cook with mostly endemic products and put our own twists to local dishes as well as Mediterranean staples. Moreover, Santo Domingo has one the best restaurant offers in terms of variety and quality in the Caribbean.
What can you offer to companies that want to organize their meetings in Casas del XVI? Could you tell us about Casas del XVI meeting and conference rooms?
We offer above all a personalized service, a tailor-made experience. Our accommodation standards are transferred to the events and meeting service. Casas del XVI offers multiple spaces that can be adapted to any type of activity, be it social or corporate. Their privacy and exclusivity make them special; ideal for diplomats, heads of state, CEO’s and executives.
Casas del XVI - Pool Area
And you are organizing romantic and intimate weddings. Could you tell us about your organization team? How do you make each wedding unique?
A wedding in any of our Houses already makes it unique and in addition, we provide our personalized service. We have an Events Planner on site that will be in direct contact with the client at all times. We cater to the couple’s wishes, nothing is out of reach, and we want to make sure they have the most amazing day of their lives. Each of the services and complements that make up a wedding is taken care of in detail including flowers, decor, lighting, music, etc.
Casas del XVI - Lounge Indoor Space
What can your guests do when they step out of Casas del XVI and step into the streets of Santo Domingo? What to do in Santo Domingo?
Santo Domingo is a city of firsts since it was the first settlement in the New World at the beginning of the 16th century. Within steps and walking distance of Casas del XVI in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ciudad Colonial, guests will be able to visit the first cathedral, monastery, hospital, and palaces of the New World. There are also multiple museums and art galleries and of course a myriad of restaurants and bars that come alive at nightfall. Without a doubt, Ciudad Colonial is where guests should wander in order to soak in the culture, history and great gastronomy of Santo Domingo. Guests can make arrangements with Concierge for tours and reservations.
For a more exclusive and one of a kind experience while in Santo Domingo, guests can partake in any of our Connoisseur Programs. From a tour through the museums of the Colonial City by the hand of one of its curators, dinner with experts in classical music followed by a private concert, or a cooking lesson with our Chef, the Connoisseurs Program is designed to make the wishes of our guests come true.
How can travelers make their individual or business/group reservations?
Travelers can make reservations on our website or by calling directly at the hotel. We offer the best rates and special amenities to direct clients including 15% off massages, early check-in, subject to availability; welcome drink, 2hr. bike ride, special amenity on arrival.
Casas del XVI - Luxury Double Room
Which is the top season for travelers who want to visit Santo Domingo? What is the reason?
Our high season is from November to April, during winter and cold months when our main market of North America wants to escape the cold weather and get respite in the Caribbean. The months of July and August can be popular for our European market too.
How do you describe Santo Domingo in one sentence?
In one word Santo Domingo is TIMELESS. I would describe it like good champagne: timeless, effervescent and sparkling. I feel very fortunate to be working at a destination that is finally being re-discovered by world travelers once again, after more than 500 years.
Thank you Ignacio for this enjoyable interview.