With more than 80 years of Majestic Hotel’s history, the Soldevila Casals family continues to renovate and sustain modernism eclipsing distinguished classicism.
When she was six years old, Gemma’s grandfather lived in Spain and always told her, “when we visit Barcelona, we’ll stay at the Majestic.” Since the first time she tiptoed her feet inside one of the most historic hotels in Spain, the experience stroke her youthful soul with stories cloaked inside walls and pillars stretching along classic, indelible hallways. In that moment, while other children dreamt of becoming supermodels and rockstars when they grew up; Gemma made a wish, to work at the Majestic Hotel someday, somehow. Today, Gemma Ravasi Arnau is the Director of Majestic Hotel & Spa as well as the Director of Operations at Majestic Hotel Group.
The history of Majestic Hotel began in 1918, when it was relocated to its present prominent address on Passeig de Gracia, alongside Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló and Josep Puig i Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller. It began with a total of 100 rooms, then to 340 rooms during the 1970s. Since then, Majestic’s guest lists have been constituted by international politicians, famous artists, cultural influencers. With time, Majestic Hotel became known as a famous hub for socialites and prestigious events. Owned by the Soldevila Casals family since three generations ago, the hotel has embodied more than 80 years of history, while the family continues to renovate and sustain modernism eclipsing distinguished classicism.
“What has made this hotel so special is that, the owners still lived here until recently,” Gemma explains.
“They added a lot of personality to the hotel. Before, they lived on the first floor, so guest who came from all over the world would literally be receive by the owners of the hotel as they walked in. It seemed as if the hotel was a house filled with warmth, instead of an internationally renowned, historic institution that hosts events for socialites and politicians.” Eventually, the owners moved from the first floor to the ninth, and most recently, they have moved away completely, permitting the hotel to transform its ninth floor into six extravagant luxury suites.
To Gemma, Majestic tells the story of life in a continuous full circle. “The building has a deep story of evolution, of time. We’re apart from political conflicts that sometimes exist in this city (between Spanish and Catalonians.) We’ve also recuperated many motifs in our rooms to move with technological support, but still maintain a definitive style the hotel is known for.” Majestic beams a contemporary yet classic influence, it’s apparent that the owners never try to deliver falsehood or elements outside of their own passion. Art enthusiasts, for example, is how some would label the Soldevila Casals family. In 1996 and 1997, Majestic held the New Art Show in Barcelona that welcomed more than 11,000 visitors to the exhibition. From both sides of the hotel entrance, to embellished walls scattered throughout stairways, lounges, restaurants, waiting areas; works from prominent artists such as: Miguel Ángel Campano, García Sevill Lluis Lleó, and Plensa live and breathe inside the Majestic. Furthermore, the owners also promote and cultivate young artists that elegantly bridge the notion of past, present and future.
The beauty of any historic hotel radiates with stories of its city, it also fosters personal tales of employees who have devoted decades of their lives to collect countless stories they will always live to tell.
“One would think, something classic can at times be old or sad.” Gemma elaborates, “but this isn’t true. We have employees who have worked here for more than 40 years, they know so much. They’re storytellers, with memories of their first days or years in the hotel. And that’s how our family continues.”
As Director of Majestic Hotel & Spa, Gemma undertook the biggest role of her dream career. “It’s quite incredible to see, stories from the past being told, and each is filled with emotions. For me, I feel that is a responsibility, we have to evolve and pass down stories of what has been learned.”
Majestic is a symbol of Barcelona that locals are proud of. As a community, they recall a drastic shift in the image of Barcelona, prior to and after the Summer Olympics in 1992. Gemma remembers people from around the world, taking time off from work to participate as volunteers at the Olympics. Everyone in all types of industries participated, from tourism, advertising, to commercial. “For Barcelona, it was a departure and quite an important movement.” She continues, “Foreigners and travelers began to recognize us as a modern city, and that locals here are capable, open-minded to different religions, ethnicities and cultures.” For her, the definition of Barcelona is a vitality to reform. The observation of Europe’s progression as a whole, followed by a similar application to the city. “For example, ten years ago, Passeig de Gracia looked completely different, void of international boutiques. Today, it is filled with Chanel, Louis Vuitton…etc.” This was a recent indication that, Barcelona too, lives to elevate the glamour in life.
Gemma recounts her first experience at Majestic and her journey through hotelier training in Paris that eventually led her to an opportunity she had wished for as a young Italian girl. Today, she greets guests from a variety of caliber in: French, Italian, English, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese. With an unfading and energetic smile, she gushes, “It’s a privilege for me, to work with a family that loves the hotel with so much passion. Majestic isn’t a chain hotel, we’re simply a group of people who work here because we appreciate its history, and all we want is to be a part of the story of the hotel.”
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