Born and raised in Mexico, Leonardo Morado spent the majority of his adult life and career in the hospitality industry, learning about the standards of service and crafting incredible experiences for luxury destinations all around the world. When an opportunity to come back home to Mexico presented itself, to a hotel in the heart of a Mayan jungle no less, there was no hesitation in his mind.
Meet Leonardo Morado
GLH: Hello Leonardo. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. For the people who may not be familiar with your story, could you quickly introduce yourself?
Leonardo Morado: Very nice to meet you. I’m Leonardo Morado, born and bred in Mexico City and I began my career in the hospitality industry 25 years ago, with The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun and another three properties in Toronto, Atlanta and Grand Cayman to name a few. In total, I’ve been with The Ritz-Carlton group for 12 years and after that I went to Indonesia to work with The Mulia Hotels & Resorts in Bali. I was part of the opening team and now I find myself here, at the amazing Chablé Yucatán.
GLH: Why that decision? Why did you choose to come back to Mexico and more particularly to the Chablé Yucatan?
Leonardo Morado: I saw a link on social media a few years ago, in 2017, and I saw this hotel in Yucatán that was awarded the best hotel in the world for architecture and design, and I read that it was a Mexican company that developed this property. After being out of Mexico for 12 years, my heart and mind made the determination that someday I would join this amazing project.
In 2020, just after the pandemic closure, I received a phone call from a very good friend asking me if I would be interested to be part of the Chablé Hotels. Around that time, I was running a 400+ rooms hotel and my immediate answer was YES. I always thought my personal philosophy is so in line with the Chablé Hotels: To provide unique and valued memorable experiences for guests as well as employees and the community, and I also love how they are redefining wellness.
GLH: The Chablé Yucatan is very much anchored in Mayan culture. On a daily basis, how do you make sure this is never lost?
Leonardo Morado: It’s the employees; They are at the heart of the property, and 40% of our workforce comes from this small town about 25 minutes away from Merida, Chocholá. The other 45% are also from Yucatán and this is how we preserve the unique Mayan culture.
We also have a vision to become the reference for superlative service in the hospitality industry and the way to do that is to maintain a proper balance between the emotional and functional aspect of our daily performance, and to be fully engaged with our property, guest and community.
GLH: Do you feel Mexican know-how, heritage and culture should be pushed more on the world stage? Do you think this is something that has been lacking in Mexican hospitality for too long?
Leonardo Morado: Great question! Yes, our country is one of the most friendly and welcoming to travelers but many international companies brought protocols and service standards from different countries. Although this aspect gives us the opportunity to learn and grow, we need to promote our culture more…our service roots and show our genuine care.
Mexico is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of folklore, gastronomy and arts. There is our pre-Hispanic roots, the Mayan culture, Aztecs, Huichols and many other ethnicities that vanished but left their mark and we, as Mexicans, should be very proud about that. To reach a higher level on the international service standards, we must be evocative, warm and authentic, and we should use our culture in a sophisticated way, along with our genuine care. I say this based on my international journey; I have compared Mexico with several other countries, and we have this unique value that we can use to make a true difference.
GLH: The area where Chablé Yucatan really lets its Mayan roots come through is the architecture of the hotel…that mix of original walls and new constructions in the middle of nature. What was the thought process behind the design of the hotel, and how did you choose what to preserve of the ancient skeleton?
Leonardo Morado: The essence of the Chablé Hotels lies in honouring the local culture, and beauty of the destinations they call home. To design this beautiful property, we had to respect what makes the beauty of Yucatan. There is a special balance that our company values and it is to attain harmony with the local communities, history, heritage and tradition.
GLH: Befitting its unique location in the middle of the jungle, Chablé Yucatan seems invested in sustainability. What does that mean for the day to day running of the hotel?
Leonardo Morado: Indeed, that’s the right way to put things. We began engaging with local suppliers to reduce our carbon emissions and support fair trade. We respect the fruit seasons and the fishing ban. More than 40% of our employees are from Chocholá, one of the 106 municipalities of Yucatán, where Chablé Yucatán is located. It has a population of more than 4000 people who have benefited from the arrival of the property.
Then there is our traditional organic Mayan Garden, which recreates harvesting techniques that have not been used in more than a century, and our chefs and restaurants are part of the “Fishing with Future” movement, to promote sustainability in fisheries and the aquaculture production of Mexico.
Another measure we implemented is our in-house water bottling and we eliminated more than 90% of the plastic bottles we used in our day-to-day activities to make a difference in our location and the rest of the world.
GLH: If you had to describe a perfect day at the hotel, what would it be?
Leonardo Morado: The perfect day at the hotel will begin with a surprise outside your Casita very early in the morning but we can’t reveal what, and after that, before breakfast, meditate in our cenote or take a yoga class, in a quiet and enigmatic atmosphere, surrounded by the mysticism of the history of said cenote, which is the living heart of the hacienda.
Breakfast is best enjoyed at Ki’ol, where chef Luis Ronzon has created a perfectly well balanced menu, with a local Mexican touch up. After breakfast, relax and unwind at our main pool where you can enjoy a cocktail, tequila or mezcal. Close to lunch, you can have a light bite by the pool, with ceviches and comfort food, or head out with us to harvest your own ingredients and enjoy a salad during lunch time.
After a relaxing and wonderful lunch, the best option is to pamper your self at our spa, with the most extensive variety of body treatments, or live the unique experience of our temazcal. In the evening, we recommend our tequila tasting before dinner at IXI’IM.
To conclude the day, on your way back to your Casita, you will witness one of the most beautiful natural shows, the lights of the jungle that blends into the starlit sky.
GLH: And finally, if you had to plan a perfect itinerary in the Yucatan region, where would you go and what would you do? Any secret address you’d like to share?
Leonardo Morado: Absolutely! In Mérida, Sunday mornings are the perfect opportunity to enjoy the “Bici Ruta” at Paseo de Montejo. It’s the ideal time to rent bikes and tour the downtown area, which is also a pet-friendly activity. There you can choose from a variety of restaurants and coffee shops for breakfast or brunch, but if you’d like to experience the traditional cuisine first hand, I would recommend visiting the local markets and the museum of Yucatan gastronomy. In this avenue, which is known as the heart of the city, you can also find many artistic and cultural expressions, as well as many historic sites and galleries like Casa Tho’ and Casas Gemelas.
During the day, I would plan a road trip to some archeological sites like Chichen Itzá and Uxmal, cenotes like Mucuyché or a getaway to the beaches nearby; the most popular destinations are Progreso, Chelem and San Crisanto. You can also not miss visiting the cities of Valladolid and Izamal, which are colorful destinations with a lot of activities to offer. Believe me, connecting with the people from the communities will make you feel like home and is an experience you will never forget.
In Mérida, the nightlife is also unique. I recommend restaurants like Micaela Mar Leña and Rosas & Xocolate where you’ll be able to enjoy a private and romantic atmosphere accompanied with jazz music. There are also many popular bars with a more relaxed or vibrant ambience and spots like the market of Santa Ana and Picheta, where you’ll be able to enjoy dinner with the Cathedral as your view from the rooftop.
I assure you, in Mérida, you’ll always find more to discover.