Meliá Hotels International is unique among the 20 largest international hotel groups in having an origin in leisure and being the ideal size to combine exceptional hospitality with management that is efficient and close to its stakeholders. For this interview, we sat down with company President and CEO Gabriel Escarrer to discuss the continuing expansion of the business and how their Spanish warmth and passion makes them distinct in the hospitality market.
Founded in 1956 in Mallorca, Meliá Hotels International today is one of the leaders of the vacation segment at an international level and this worldwide knowledge of the leisure field offers the company a great advantage to stand out in an increasingly leisure-inspired urban hotels segment. In this sense, Meliá has become pioneers in creating “destination hotels”, with spaces and experiences that enrich the lives of its guests and allows them to fulfil the purpose of their trip.
In addition, its Spanish heritage allows them to offer Spanish and Mediterranean hospitality at its best, so that their clients value above all the exquisite and personalised service of their collaborators, which has been and continues to be a key aspect for the company. With a grounded history through its family roots and its positon as The Most Sustainable Hotel Company in the World according to Standard & Poor’s Global, Meliá can offer its clients greater confidence, linking the current aspiration to travel responsibly and generating a positive impact on the environment of the destinations they operate.
“Currently, we have 354 operating hotels and 63 in our development pipeline that are due to open before 2026,” explains Gabriel Escarrer, President and CEO of Meliá Hotels International. “Of the operational hotels, 142 are in Spain, with another 100 situated across the rest of EMEA. We also have 42 across Asia-Pacific and another 70 across the Americas region.”
In the last 12 months, they have opened 12 hotels, totalling 1,779 rooms and reached new countries such as Albania and Malta, in addition to reinforcing their presence in Spain and expanding their portfolio in Africa and Asia-Pacific. A stand out opening in this time was the new ZEL Mallorca hotel in Palmanova, the first hotel of the ZEL brand, created jointly with the tennis idol Rafael Nadal.
With this exciting project they have created the first lifestyle hotel brand with an essence of the Mediterranean, instilling its character, lifestyle and culture as key features of the brand’s identity. Escarrer says they are very proud of the first ZEL hotel, a brand that has revolutionised the industry with its innovative and disruptive products and that its opening season has been a great success, maintaining a high occupancy index and an average rate which was 50 per cent above the rate registered before the hotel’s rebranding.
In the coming three years, they plan on launching an additional 63 hotels, encompassing more than 14 thousand rooms around the world. Between now and the end of next year, they hope to add the 26 already scheduled launches to their portfolio, among which the Gran Meliá Palazzo Cordusio and the hotel in Milan of The Meliá Collection brand stand out, according to Escarrer.
During 2024 they will also grow in other European cities with ME Lisbon, ME Malta, as well as in America where they hope to open ten new hotels in destinations such as Mexico. Additionally, they will continue to drive their growth in the Middle East and starting in 2025 they will also see strong growth in Asia-Pacific, with at least ten new additions to their portfolio.
“The upcoming openings highlight the evolution of the portfolio and pipeline regarding the Luxury segment. Currently, the Premium and the Luxury segments make up no more than 60 per cent of our hotels’ portfolio, but they represent more than 82 per cent of our development pipeline. During the coming three years, one of every three hotels we open will target the luxury segment,” says Escarrer.
Discussing what initially attracts the brand to new properties, the CEO says firstly it is based on geography, they are drawn to properties within what they call the “leisure axis”, that includes the leisure destinations from the Caribbean, passing through the Mediterranean and eastern and northern Africa, including Southeast Asia. Besides location, Gabriel continues by saying they are also attracted by properties that fit into the company’s heritage and values and of course, that can be adapted to the brand’s standards and they increasingly value the sustainability aspects, so every new property must share the company’s commitments in terms of ESG.
Pioneers in multiple areas, digital distribution is no exception, with melia.com being one of the first reservation “websites” that operated in Europe in the early 1990s. Since then, the direct channel has not stopped growing and evolving and today accounts for more than 45 per cent of total centralised B2C sales.
“Regarding social media, this is undoubtedly a fundamental channel for enhancing our reputation and increasingly, turning conversions into sales. We are strongly focused on managing our social channels and increasing our audiences, working with influencers and of course, creating relevant content to better transmit our value proposition to the different targets,” Escarrer comments.
Meliá Hotels International has a strong commitment to sustainability and is well positioned in relevant rankings, such as S&P’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment, but they are determined to keep improving. The 2030 Agenda is a general roadmap for the business and more specifically, they are making progress in their decarbonisation, with a strong focus on energy and water efficiency and they are starting to implement circularity projects in their hotels. Last year, they opened their first “Net Zero” hotel in Menorca, which they consider a pilot project that should inspire their future hotels throughout the world.
When considering the key drivers behind the ongoing success of Meliá, Gabriel highlights that the combination of the values and long-term vision of a family-based company, with the rigor and standards demanded by the market has a lot to do with their success. With their values of excellence, innovation, service vocation, proximity and consistency, the company looks to stay true to these in everything it does moving forward.
“Nevertheless, Meliá Hotels International is now 67 years old and without forgetting our ethos, we are undergoing another deep cultural transformation that will enable our company to face the challenges and opportunities of the new era “post-Covid” of hospitality,” says Escarrer.
“In the coming years, our strategy aims to make our company stronger and more resilient, more digital, more efficient and more sustainable, whilst maintaining our core values and putting the customer at the centre of all our thought processes,” Escarrer concludes.