Meryanne Loum-Martin is the owner of Jnane Tamsna, a 24-room boutique hotel located in Marrakech, Morroco. She has operated this business for over 20 years. During the last few months, she has had to pivot and figure out how to keep the business afloat while rebranding her enterprise and launching new ventures.
We caught up with her to find out how things going now and what she has in store for us next.
What inspired you to step into the hotel business?
I used to be a lawyer in Paris but I was always passionate about architecture and design. I discovered Marrakech in 1985 and immediately fell in love with it: diversity, cultural heritage, the mother continent, and a cosmopolitan and creative social life.
I also had the intuition that boutique experience was the future of travel, so in 1989 I launched two neighboring private residences and turned them into a hospitality business. This later won the “Best Villa to rent in the World” award from Harper’s and Queen magazine.
My work was published in the New York Times, WSJ, Town and Country, Architecture Digest, and almost 60 other magazines worldwide.
At one point in time, there was a waiting list to find a slot and Tom Cruise had to try four times before we could find availability. Brad Pitt had told him that it was the place to stay in Marrakech.
We’ve hosted Fortune 500 CEOs to public figures like Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Peter Lindberg, David Bowie and Iman, Mick Jagger, Princess Caroline of Monaco, and many other royals. They described the villa as “very famous to very few” and was always full.
The enormous success of this boutique villa concept led me to create Jnane Tamsna in 2001. In a nutshell, I love designing, and I have to turn it into a business to make a living, hence hospitality.
The travel and hospitality industry has been hit hard in the past few months. How have you been able to pivot or leverage your brand in other ways?
It has been very hard as of late February. I had just sponsored, hosted, and conceived a cultural pop-up called AFREECulture Salon to celebrate the creativity of our diaspora in film, literature, and entrepreneurship.
It was a great success and was counting on the very high rate of occupancy of the high season to follow, to absorb the expenses and suddenly there was nothing.
But such is life, as the world was going through a major pandemic. Because I am a connector, cultural entrepreneur, and creative, I want to use my platform to host events that will enrich the conversation about our diaspora. AFREECulture salon will launch for Labor Day 2021.
Since I have non-profit status that can benefit corporate sponsors, I would like them to support events such as fascinating retreats with amazing speakers, films, documentaries, and music connected to our cause.
What upcoming projects can we expect from you?
I am launching a special offer for the Shoppe Black audience. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask about “Meryanne’s Shoppe Black special deal.”
My book, “Inside Marrakech” published by Rizzoli NY is coming out in October. It is my personal journey through the most beautiful private houses and gardens of Marrakech. I am looking for Black-owned bookstores where we could organize festive zoom launch parties, all over the country.
I am also working on a fabulous new resort concept and hopefully, we are ready to submit to planning consent in the Fall. This is the project of my life.
The architect and project partner is a multi-award winning icon in the 5-star hospitality industry, and I could not be more humbled that he shared my vision and suggested to partner.
I am developing my e-commerce lifestyle brand starting with beautiful tableware and luminaries. I can be contacted at Jnane Tamsna Lifestyle to receive photos and details about our available products. Although our website will not be up before fall, we have started selling. So please contact me!
Where do you see the business in 5 years?
In an ideal world…
My two hotels are doing well with the most diverse clientele ever. I will own four restaurants, one cultural special events venue, and a small museum space celebrating the impact of diasporas on culture.
For the museum space, I am working with an amazing architect who is redoing the Rockefeller wing of the MET. Kulapat Yantrasast.
I see AFREECulture salon having a yearly rendezvous in Marrakech. My e-commerce lifestyle and interiors line is a success.
I would also like all of my enterprises to mentor young interior designers and hospitality creatives so that our diaspora has more and more placers connected to our narrative while open to all.
What advice do you have for those interested in the hospitality industry?
It is a tough world. Don’t start your own business unless you know your market and future clients, have identified a niche and have direct access to it. Have very strong unique selling points so the competition is less harsh. Be unique, don’t be afraid of being generous and human.