Hard Rock's CDO Marco Roca talks global expansion, love for the Beatles

The Hard Rock brand is synonymous with music and its using that hip cachet to build a global hotel empire. How it grows that portfolio falls heavily to Marco Roca, who, as EVP and CDO for hotels & casinos at Hard Rock International, is charged with accelerating the company’s global growth plans. Here he shares what his plans are and why the Hard Rock experience goes well beyond just a hotel.

You joined Hard Rock to oversee hotel development just about a year ago, leaving Starwood Hotels & Resorts to do so. What has been the biggest change—both professionally and personally—and how would you evaluate your first year on the job?
MR: On a personal basis, the biggest challenge was relocating to Orlando from Atlanta. My middle son was in his final year of high school so I commuted for the first year. Professionally, the biggest challenge was getting the team together. Hard Rock developers need to have the right combination of business acumen along with a love for music and fun. Our team is the best in the business and their efforts are apparent in our very aggressive growth. Overall, I am very pleased with our eight new deals and look forward to double-digit growth on this second year.

Hard Rock has been on a global development kick with an opening in Ibiza, an imminent opening in Dubai and upcoming projects in the Canary Islands and Abu Dhabi. What is Hard Rock’s overall global expansion strategy and what have been the opportunities and challenges?
MR: Our strategy is to grow in all key markets and music cities. Some examples in the U.S. of music cities would be New Orleans, Austin and, of course, Nashville. We are not ignoring the requests of our fans though and we also target major global cities.

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Hard Rock’s ethos is all about the music. Beyond expansion, how does the brand evolve, in design, services and amenities, to cater to and capture changing guest tastes? Is it more than just showcasing the Beatles to Bieber?
MR: Travelers are seeking out accommodations that enhance their overall experience. To us, music is the thread that unites us all and this allows for an atmosphere that naturally brings people together, evokes emotion and is upscale, yet anything but uptight. We take this a step further and allow guests to interact directly with music through our all-encompassing music amenity program, The Sound of Your Stay, which provides guests with a playlist download upon check-in, in-room delivery of a Fender guitar from a menu of 20-plus for impromptu jam sessions and professional DJ equipment. All our properties feature live music from a vast array of styles—Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza features a stellar lineup of world-renowned artists throughout summer, while you may catch a local Spanish rock band at Hard Rock Hotel Cancun.

As the head of development for Hard Rock, how do you explain the overall value proposition of a Hard Rock property? Why should a developer choose to build a Hard Rock over another full-service brand?
MR: Internationally known brand, worldwide reach, multifaceted offering and a long-standing history of infusing hospitality with an experience. Appealing to consumers from ages eight to 80, we all connect through music. Culture, experience, substance—music is contagious, engaging, evokes emotion and transcends through generation. Travelers/fans of all ages can connect and be attracted to the product. The distinctive emotional stimulation of the “rock star experience” and all its components. Hard Rock has one element no other brand or hotel company can claim—Hard Rock’s legacy and heritage: the cafes, the deep-rooted music history. Integrity of the brand is what Hard Rock is all about; to remain authentic and create a unique and viable emotional experience for guests. This experience resonates with guests of all ages and through our curated resorts and city hotels, we elevate these experiences to cater to the unique needs of guests traveling to that area. This diversity allows us to provide a hotel product that stems from all-inclusive beach resorts in Mexico and Punta Cana, city hotels in domestic favorites and beyond. We also have a proven track record of developing new hotels in new markets and a strong, global brand presence. We understand travelers aren’t looking to just stay at a hotel anymore and we provide much more than that.

There’s no escaping this question: What is your favorite type of music and if you could see one band play live, past or present, who would it be?
MR: Without a doubt, the Beatles. I grew up in Mexico and the Beatles was a part of every car ride to school with my dad. Like our brand, the brilliance of their music is simplicity and authenticity.