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Founder of GITANO and the Casa Pueblo Hotel Group.

Derek Klein was born and raised in Utah, but his career in design and hospitality has led him all over the world-from London to Marrakech, India, and for the last decade, Tulum-before he returned home to UTAH in 2020.

Klein first carved his own path as a stronghold within Mexico’s hospitality scene as founder of the Tulum restaurant GITANO as well as the Casa Pueblo Hotel Group, and the hotelier and busi- ness owner is now a household name across the Yucatan Penin- sula. “The best way to describe Mexico is magical,” he says. “I first visited Tulum almost two decades ago and fell in love with its rawness. Over time, a close-knit creative community emerged there, and I quickly had a vision for what this area could become.”

Klein was mesmerized by the opportunities he found in Mexico when he arrived in 2010. “My arrival in Tulum came after a 3,000-mile journey from LA in a mellow-yellow colored 1978 Mer- cedes; it was pure gypset! This was a unique moment where cre- atives like myself were just driving down, making their way into town, and setting up shop. We were all so hungry for collabora- tion in a supportive atmosphere; it was essentially a think-tank mentality. Together, we pioneered a vision for Tulum that put it on the map in a huge way, and I will forever be proud of being part of something that metamorphic.”

In 2013, Klein founded the Tulum restaurant and bar GITANO with the help of a building loan from his father―it quickly became the most trend-forward place to see and be seen. “In that period, Tulum was hot so starting a business there was an extraordinary experience,” Klein says. “It was this haven where influencers, ce- lebrities, and fashion icons were coming to find respite within our free-spirited paradise.”

Taking on this ambitious project early in his career allowed Klein the time and space to learn the ins and outs of being successful within the industry. A few years after, he stepped out on his own and built Casa Pueblo, an elegantly designed boutique hotel that earned a consistent sell-out rate and a cult-following. For Klein, this was a proofpoint that his business model could work, and two years later he opened a sister location, Casa Pueblo Boca Paila along Tulum’s beachfront.

Like the original Casa Pueblo, Boca Paila embraced tropical mini- malism with a 50s-era French Riviera twist, while offering a level of luxury that was unprecedented amongst Tulum’s more Bohe- mian and understated properties. “Someone told me it felt simi- lar to how Soho House in Miami or Hotel Costes in Paris moved their cities’ hospitality center of gravity. It’s a distinctive alche- my and x-factor that I’ve always strived to instill in each project I touch, not only because I’m a scene-setting perfectionist but also due to the financial rewards that come along with creating a new scene and that’s what I plan to do with my next outposts as well.”

Casa Pueblo quickly became the destination for young creatives who were visiting Tulum for work, play, or a mixture of both. “I recognized that a place for both business and pleasure was needed, which is often the case in up-and-coming entrepre- neurial, creative towns, and Casa Pueblo established itself as a true hub for not only vacationers but also entrepreneurs within the scene in Tulum to come together, hangout, enjoy a conver- sation, do a little work, and perhaps leave with a new connection or collaboration.”

Klein credits the decade he spent building both hotels as the most transformational period of his entire life, and now he plans to bring what he learned in Mexico to the state of Utah. “More and more people are looking for unique destinations with alter- native accommodation such as cabins, tents, chalets, etc.,” Klein says. “They are traveling to more rural areas looking for back to nature experiences. There is no better place to build an idea or concept around this type of experiential offering than our beautiful state of Utah.”