Barefoot luxury: Return to Sotogrande

Marc Topiol, charged with the Andalusian destination's renaissance, shares his vision for this corner of the Spanish coast

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I joined Sotogrande in 2014 and my philosophy is simple: we try to take a left turn when everybody else takes a right.

I am on the board of a company called Circulo Fortuny, which is a non-profit whose job is to promote luxury and Spanish-made products. Traditionally, "made in Spain" doesn't resonate in quite the same way as "made in Italy" or "made in France". However, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in this perception and Sotogrande is very much part of this.

Andalusia is a region known for its craftsmanship and I think that's why Joseph McMicking founded this place 55 years ago. If you go to the beach club and you see the nature reserve, you can see it is largely all as it was 60 years ago. It stayed that way because there was no way to get here. Until 2004, to come to Sotogrande from Marbella would take you four to five hours in summertime along winding country roads. That restriction naturally helped the area to stay authentic.

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Sotogrande has always been positioned as a playground for the rich and famous. A secret place for people who don't want to be seen and who cherish their privacy. One thing I maintain is that here, the mask comes down. It's a place where you can be yourself. It's barefoot luxury.

(Image credit: ©Jesus Robledo)

There is no Michelin-star restaurant here. Why? Because our guests have Michelin-starred restaurants where they live and where they travel. That's not to say it is something we discount completely in the future, but it would have to be a restaurant that is authentic to Sotogrande and the region.

If you want the glitz, glam and instant gratification of the likes of Marbella and St Tropez, then most likely Sotogrande is not for you (although if you feel that pull occasionally, Marbella is less than 40 minutes' drive away). In terms of selling homes, all we're trying to do is find 260 families, so you have to put that into perspective. At La Reserva Club, we're developing 260 homes to complement the 6,000 that already exist at Sotogrande.

(Image credit: ©Jesus Robledo)

To potential buyers or investors, we are appealing to the limbic part of their brains, connected to emotional responses and the creation of memories. In this respect, we let the "raw materials" do the talking – the climate, the rich backdrop of green hilly landscape overlooking the Mediterranean. Add to this assault on the senses the unsurpassed sporting offering – our golf courses, championship polo, the RC44 sailing racing and our first-ever Sotogrande Grand Prix which we recently hosted, welcoming guests and visitors to the region to celebrate its history and beauty. And don't forget our local Andalusian heritage and communities. The transformation underway at La Reserva and Sotogrande speaks for itself. We say: "Come here, experience it for yourself. Be at peace with our talented team around you and create your own memories."

MARC TOPIOL previously worked for Marriott International before becoming chief executive of Sotogrande SA in 2014; sotogrande.com

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