Óbal Urban Hotel: Interview with Cristóbal Parra Yagüe, Operations Manager

We spoke with Cristóbal Parra Yagüe, the hotel's director of operations and a member of the third generation of this family group, about how the project came about and the significance for Marbella tourism of having a four-star hotel right in the heart of town.  


Óbal Urban Hotel will open its doors for summer 2023 within what has been one of Marbella’s most iconic hotel buildings for over 60 years, the Hotel San Cristóbal. After a six-million-euro overall, this new-look hotel will take pride of place on the town’s main thoroughfare, just a stone’s throw from the sea and the Old Town. The biggest innovation will be the rooftop 360 Blue Sky Bar, with its swimming pool and chillout area serving a menu of healthy food and cocktails.

Owned by the Parra family, one of Marbella’s most prominent family businesses, the new Óbal Urban Hotel has been created in response to the major upgrading under way in the Marbella hotel sector, so as not to be left behind. We spoke with Cristóbal Parra Yagüe, the hotel’s director of operations and a member of the third generation of this family group, about how the project came about and the significance for Marbella tourism of having a four-star hotel right in the heart of town.

Cristóbal Parra Yagüe- Obal Urban Hotel Marbella

You have taken over the reins from your father Cristóbal Parra as operations director of Óbal Urban Hotel. This belongs to your family group of companies and you are the third generation. What are the core values of the group as a family business?

That’s right, I am the third generation and, with the support of the general manager, we are taking forward  the group’s strategy.  Just over a year ago we signed our second family working agreement so that we can continue together harmoniously for many years to come.

Front- Obal Urban Hotel

The San Cristóbal has been one of Marbella’s iconic hotels since it was founded in the 1960s and has been run by your family throughout that time. Tell us a little about the origins of the hotel.

The hotel has had several alterations over the years. The first Hotel San Cristóbal was built by my grandfather Cristóbal Parra Sánchez and opened in August 1961 with four floors and 58 rooms. In 1970, two more floors and 44 rooms were put in. In 1987 the first restaurant was added, replacing some of the rooms.

As you can see, we’ve been continually improving as time has gone on, right up to the present day with the complete refurbishment that’s currently under way to bring us up to four-stars.

Suite- Obal

The new name is Óbal Urban Hotel. Where does it come from?

We thought a lot about the new name, but initially there wasn’t one that the four branches of the family all liked. Eventually we realised that we didn’t want to lose our roots. Óbal comes on the one hand from Cristóbal (the founder) and on the other from the oval shape of grapes. Before he started in the hotel business, my grandfather was in farming and sold grapes, and the surname Parra is also the Spanish word for a grapevine, so it all comes together and makes sense. With Urban we want to give the hotel that urban touch and offer the customer unforgettable experiences in the real Marbella, in the Old Town.

Patio- Obal

An investment of six million euros is not something to be taken lightly. Why did you decide this was the right time to go ahead with the plan?

We were aware that the hotel needed a complete renovation; the hotel industry in Marbella was undergoing major renewal and we could not fall behind. In previous years we had refurbished more than half of the rooms, but if we wanted to aspire to being a four-star hotel, we had to do much more.

Before going ahead with the current overhaul we hired consultants to find out what the market for four-star hotels in Malaga province was. The numbers clearly showed that we had to make that leap forward in quality terms.

Marbella is a seaside town and Óbal Urban Hotel will be right in the centre, just a few metres from the beach and promenade. What will the new-look building be like?

The building will have a modern and eye-catching look with a façade designed to be in keeping with all that Marbella stands for. Inside there will be new public areas such as a rooftop pool and terrace, a gym, multi-purpose rooms for events and meetings as well as a new ground-floor reception, making the legendary escalator of the old building a thing of the past.

Óbal Urban Hotel will be focused on urban and gastro tourism and aims to become a benchmark among Marbella hotels. What will visitors staying in the new hotel find in that regard?

As well as the Alameda Restaurant, which is already well known, we will increase the food and drink options available with both the new rooftop terrace, which will have views over the Old Town, and an extension to the interior patio next to the restaurant. Out of the 110 rooms we are going to have, 45 will be Premium, four Junior Suites and one will be a Suite, all of them with views of the Alameda gardens or the Old Town.

Patio and restaurant- Obal Marbella

One of the main reasons people travel worldwide is to play golf and Marbella is a town with many good courses. Will the hotel have services for guests who are staying for golf? And deals with golf courses in the area?

Yes, we will have agreements with golf courses for guests who request them. They will also be able to store club bags safely as required.  The massage service will be available to guests after a long day on the course.

The family firm, Solvento Group, has also invested in other types of accommodation beyond the pure hotel concept, such as Aqua Bellamar and Aqua Vento holiday apartments in Marbella. What is the profile of customers who stay there? What do these accommodation types offer?

The profile for the apartments tends to be families with children and groups of friends in high season and couples and businesspeople in low season. They offer any of the facilities you would have at home; a fully-equipped kitchen, a living room with a comfortable sofa, a dining table and a good TV, among other things. In addition, the entire Aqua Bellamar building has terraces with sea views and in the case of Aqua Vento, terraces with sea and mountain views.

The group is constantly looking for and weighing up new projects. Any that you can reveal?

We recently bought a block of 10 flats in the centre of Malaga which we are operating under the name Aqua Apartments Malaga. We have recently signed an option to purchase a further 50 flats, also in the centre of Malaga, which are waiting on their licence for tourist use and we expect they will become part of the Aqua Apartments Group by 2024.


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