Rahim Kanani

Ernesto Coppel of Pueblo Bonito on Leadership and Sustainability

Rahim Kanani
Ernesto Coppel of Pueblo Bonito on Leadership and Sustainability

In an interview with Ernesto Coppel, developer and chairman of Pueblo Bonito Golf & Spa Resorts, we explored the origin of his company, social and environmental responsibility, why he considers his 3000 staff their most important asset, and much more.

Since 1987, Coppel has developed six luxury beachfront resorts: two in Mazatlán on Pacific coast, and four in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Each property has its own distinctive architecture and décor, which Coppel embellishes with antiques and original works of art that he selects with that hotel, resort, or community in mind. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox honored Ernesto Coppel with the “Entrepreneur of the Year’’ award for tourism based on continued dedication, community involvement, and achievements in growing Mexico’s economy through tourism.

What was the spark, moment or experience that inspired the launch of Pueblo Bonito in 1987?

After working in sales for a hotel in Mazatlan for several years, I wanted to bring a higher quality hotel to the city of Mazatlán. So I got together with a couple of friends. We used all of our savings and looked for investors and that was the start of building the Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan with 124 rooms. We met the challenge of building the best hotel in Mazatlan, a hotel with a great physical appearance but also with excellent service. I always tried to give more than people expected. Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan was so successful that after one year of opening, I doubled the size of the hotel. 

Afterwards, while the company was growing, I always kept that in mind, that the combination of 5-star facilities and a high standard service paid off. We have continued with that concept throughout the growth of the company. Today, Pueblo Bonito has more than 2,000 rooms and over 3,000 employees. We will continue to grow.

Social and environmental responsibility — before they became buzz words — continue to play an important role in how you think about design and development. Where does that attitude come from?

I don’t come from money, I come from a culture of effort and determination. I have always thought that I needed to give back to the community and that helped me to get where I am today. Through the Letty Coppel Foundation, we support first and foremost our employees, to help them improve their lives. We enhanced our employees’ educational opportunities and language training, so they can develop to their potential, and we support the communities that are most in need, such as orphanages. We also contribute to environmental organizations. When we started to develop in Los Cabos, with every new development we enhanced our commitment to the environment, In Sunset Beach, we have our own water treatment plant. We also have our own power plants at the resorts. Back in 1997, when Hurricane Paulina hit, Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Resort provided the city of Cabo San Lucas with light and water. When we built our Quivira Golf Club, we surfaced it with grass for which we could provide recycled water from our irrigation plants.

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Building on this idea, how does that ethic manifest itself in the day-to-day operations of the properties, staff training or otherwise?

We believe that the most important asset in our company are not the buildings, it is the people. If we take care of our employees, they will take care of our guests. We make sure they are continuously trained. We have complimentary on-site psychologists for our hotel employees. We care about our employees, we want our guests to feel the warmth, we want them to feel at home, so that they return and return again. At Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan, we have employees that have been with us for 30 years. That’s how we’ve been able experience such phenomenal growth.

Are you optimistic that the hotel and resort business more broadly — given the scale and scope of the industry worldwide — is beginning to take seriously their social and environmental impact?

Absolutely. We are not the only company that thinks that social responsibility is important. Big companies are getting more involved. I would love for everyone, across other industries as well, to contribute more. We have to understand this is not our planet, this planet belongs to our children and to our grandchildren and we need to make sure that this planet will be there for them. We are trying to do our part to make this happen.

From a business perspective, can you conclude that doing good is good for business?

Well, doing good is good for the soul, first and foremost. This is what I have always thought. If you act well, business will do well. It is important to have a balance. In our company, we try to do good for others. Of course, a lot of what we do for the community is good for the destination, so it is good for our business. I am convinced that community development is the key to the growth in Los Cabos.