The story behind Costa del Sol’s Boutique X
A young Finnish couple take a hotel in Fuengirola from the seventies into the present day – and beyond.
Like most of the Costa del Sol coastline, the city of Fuengirola is peppered with brutal concrete tower hotels, infusing the atmosphere with a not-so-fresh whiff of the 1970s.
Ville Palola and his wife Aino Palola landed in the region almost by accident while on holiday some five years ago. Amidst Spain’s then-struggling economy, they started seeing opportunities.
“There was a ‘for sale’ sign in practically every window,” recalls Ville. After two years of active reconnaissance, the couple, together with a Finnish investment firm, acquired a derelict 1970s hostel in the older part of Fuengirola.
“It must have been the ugliest building in the whole town,” Aino shudders. “But the location by the central Plaza de España was ideal.”
Scandi style, Spanish shell
The hotel, now Boutique X, was a full year in the planning before the first sledgehammer touched the run-down walls of the old hostel.
The couple’s ambition was to harness the latest technology for maximum efficiency, while preserving the cosy essence of a boutique hotel.
“The two often seem mutually exclusive, but we were inspired by small hotels we’d seen in California, which leaned heavily on technology, but still managed to retain a real human touch,” notes Ville.
Once the concept was clear, the old hostel with its tiny rooms and narrow corridors was all but demolished – only the pillars were left standing. In its place at the corner of the plaza now stands a white-washed gem of a building with sleek lines, looking very much like it belongs right there. The contemporary Nordic interior was created in-house.
The new hotel boasts the most advanced online booking system in existence, plus a fully automated locking system, eliminating the need for reception personnel.
“People said that would be a problem, as guests prefer to be greeted by real people, but we decided to take that risk,” says Aino.
The personal touch is added in other ways. Upon arrival every guest is greeted with a personal message written in chalk on a blackboard in their room, and fresh fruit is delivered to the rooms regularly.
The couple’s vision has been vindicated not only by a steady flow of customers, both Spanish and foreign, but also by more official recognition. The hotel made it to booking.com’s top 30 per cent within only six months, a rare accomplishment for such a new listing.
And the success of Boutique X has already spawned a progeny. The couple are about to open another boutique hotel not far from Fuengirola, in the village of Benalmádena: watch this space.
Text Marko Pasanen
Photos Riitta Sourander
Finnair flies to Malaga seven times a week from where it’s a 30-kilometre ride to Fuengirola.