The leading hotel company in Spain and one of the largest in the world, Meliá Hotels International operates seven well-known brands and is unique among the 20 largest international hotel groups in having an origin in leisure. Here, RLI speaks with Gabriel Escarrer, Vice-Chairman and CEO of Meliá Hotels International to discuss how the brand has reached this unique position in the market and what its plans are for the future.
Meliá Hotels International (MHI) now has 390 owned and operated under management hotels in over 40 countries in four continents. Leading the way with 140 hotels in Spain, the company also has a prominent position in countries such as Cuba, Germany, Mexico & the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Vietnam, with a strong footprint across LATAM.
With its additional focus on leisure and bleisure (business & leisure) destinations; they are increasingly visible in European gateway cities such as London, Milan, Paris as well as the Middle East, Africa and China.
“For a global company like ours 2019 was a challenging year; however our results remained in line with expectations despite the effects of simultaneous extraordinary events,” explains Gabriel Escarrer, Vice-Chairman and CEO of Meliá Hotels International.
“In terms of reputation, we have focused on maintaining and strengthening the relationship with our customers through these troubled times, increasing the engagement and positive sentiment towards our brands through honest and regular communication.”
The company currently has a development pipeline of 54 hotels which includes the new Paradisus Playa Mujeres in Mexico, the Gran Meliá Chengdu in China, the Innside Amsterdam and the ME Barcelona in Europe and the ME Doha in the Middle East.
Moving forward, the vision for MHI is to grow in both the leisure and bleisure segments. As such, the strategic focus is currently on Southern European countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, along with Montenegro and Croatia in the Balkans, whilst also keeping an eye on Southeast Asia, mainly in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
When looking for new properties, MHI first take into consideration the facilities, the number and type of rooms, the functionality of its premises, and how it meets brand standards.
“What we also do is consider the ‘magic’ that we can create in the property, which depends, to a high extent, on its design, spaces, architecture, and something that is very important for us: the open spaces, gardens, terraces and roof-tops,” explains Escarrer.
The company chooses its destinations very carefully and they aim for the hotels to become social epicentres of the cities and resort destinations in which they are situated, so that the hotel is integrated into its surroundings, improving its perception and reputation. Finally, they work very hard on improving the hotels’ segmentation too, which ultimately has a positive impact on the destination in general, igniting a snowball effect in the destination’s ecosystem.
“Our motto is ‘leisure at heart, business in mind. Our company is one of the leading groups in the resort segment, and after 65 years of history, we know how to create unique and memorable experiences, that we have also been able to transfer to the increasingly leisure-inspired segment of urban hotels,” Escarrer comments.
With e-commerce and social media now playing such a pivotal role in the success of a company, Escarrer explains that digitisation is the backbone of MHI’s strategic plan, and it has become even more important post-Covid-19, as customer habits change and the use of digital channels increases.
“E-commerce has been essential for us for some years now, and after a huge investment of almost 200 million since 2015, we are amongst the industry leaders when it comes to digital distribution; now, e-commerce makes up more than 70 per cent of our total sales, and our channels melia.com and MeliaPro.com represent over 40 per cent of our sales.”
As a family-born company that was listed on the stock market 25 years ago, the company epitomises strong ‘family’ values and solid corporate governance that imposes special rigor and transparency. Considering this, Escarrer defines the company’s mission as: “To promote a transformation that makes the company more profitable and sustainable based on three fundamental drivers: the consolidation of our core values and strengths; efficiency, simplification and digitalisation; and a new strategy for responsible growth consistent with our vision.”
Commenting on the challenges that lie ahead, Gabriel believes that firstly the tourism industry needs to re-start as soon as possible and be built on stronger and more sustainable foundations.
“Currently at MHI, we are focused on re-setting ourselves and re-thinking our strategy and operating model, taking advantage of this period to improve and be prepared to face the challenging and more competitive post-Covid market, and to be able to seize the opportunities that the new environment brings. We expect a strong market contraction that could last until 2023 or 2024, offering growth opportunities for the most efficient, agile and responsible companies,” Escarrer concludes.