During my recent stay in Marrakech (see “Marock ‘n’ roll in Marrakech”) I stayed at a riad, a traditional Moroccan family house now used as a guesthouse. I spoke with Antonio Micheli, the co-owner of the Riad Le J.
How does an Italian end up opening a guesthouse in Marrakech?
Antonio Micheli: When we arrived in Morocco for a holiday in 2011, we simply fell in love with this country and decided to find a way to come back often. In 2005, we bought a riad as our residence and after the renovation a lot of friends that were asked us: “Why don’t you use it as a maîson d’hôte (guesthouse)?” Slowly we started and the feedback was very good.
How would you describe the essence of a real Marrakshi riad?
The essence of a riad can be summarized as “to be at home”. You don’t have all the services of an hotel and the structure itself is made to facilitate meetings among guests. Many of them have become friends here. We try to do our best about services, cleaning and details and to assist the guests, but the main reason to be in a riad is really “to be at home”.
How can a small guesthouse with only four rooms be run profitably?
In fact, four rooms are the minimum quantity for it to be profitable. That is why we have a strict cancellation policy, as one cancellation is a 25% loss. Of course, to have at least two more rooms would be much better, and I hope this will happen in the future. At the moment, we won’t get rich from it, but we can make a decent living from it. Moreover, we help the local staff to make a living.
Is there any hotel worldwide that serves as a model or inspiration for a hotelier like yourself?
I don’t have a true model worldwide; what I’m looking for in other hotels is a “soul”, something that strikes your spirit and make you comfortable and relaxed, apart from the hotel’s category and services.