This week, Travel Daily chats with Gabriel Escarrer, vice chairman & CEO of Meliá Hotels International, about the company’s expansion plans in Asia Pacific…
Q) Meliá has been expanding its Asian portfolio recently; what are you key focus markets in this region?
Melià Hotels International (MHI) has just announced that the Gran Meliá brand will launch a five-star property in Bintan, Indonesia, in 2018. The company’s Asian 2016 hotel openings include Meliá Shanghai and Meliá Yangon, Myanmar, which are due to launch later this year. MHI has a dual focus in the region with China and the South Pacific region, where MHI has been operating for more than 30 years and the market is more dynamic than ever before. The company recently signed the 15th hotel in Indonesia and we expect to double MHI’s current portfolio (31 hotels including the pipeline) in the next three years.
MHI also launched its worldwide programme for Chinese travellers named ‘Peng You’, which includes a comprehensive staff training programme, and a global strategy for 80 hotels to achieve the QSC – the China Outbound Tourism Quality Service Certification. Recognition is already forthcoming from the group’s efforts, with two recent award wins from Ctrip and Qunar, a leading online travel search platform in China.
Q) Which of Meliá’s brands do you believe will be most suited to the Asian market?
At present, the company is strategically developing Gran Melià, Melià Hotels & Resorts, INNSIDE by Melià and Sol Hotels & Resorts. MHI’s future strategy will also see the Group introduce Paradisus by Melià to the Asian market.
Gran Meliá, the timeless luxury brand, has successfully arrived with flagship hotels like the Gran Meliá Xian, in one of the cultural capitals of China, and the coming Gran Meliá Bintan in Indonesia, catering for the most exclusive resort clientele in the Pacific. Meliá Hotels & Resorts, the most International brand, performs wonderfully in both urban and leisure destinations of countries such as China ( Meliá Jinan, Meliá Chongqing) Indonesia (Meliá Bali, Meliá Purosani etc) or Malaysia (Meliá Kuala Lumpur) and Vietnam (Meliá Hanoi, Melia Danang) because of its versatility, efficient service, and its passion for service.
Located in the most cosmopolitan cities worldwide, INNSIDE by Meliá appeals to both business and leisure guests with its efficient and informal service. It is currently one of Meliá Hotels International’s fastest growing brands, which has expanded across four continents, with upcoming openings in countries such as China and Indonesia. 27% of the brand’s new openings will be located in Asia, with one hotel in China, one in Malaysia and three in Indonesia.
I’d also like to highlight the expansion of our midscale resort brand, Sol Hotels & Resorts, with its new concepts Sol Beach House (Sol Beach House Benoa, Sol Beach house Koh Samui, etc) and Sol House (Sol House Kuta, etc) which are becoming very popular thanks to a personalised value proposal that aims to bring a life style flair to resort midscale hotels.
Q) Do you have any plans to enter the Indian hotel sector?
MHI does not have plans to enter India in this strategic plan term, but it is an exciting market with lots of potential. At this time the company’s priority markets are focused on emerging destinations, besides China and the South Pacific countries, of the Middle East, as well as English-speaking Caribbean locations and upcoming Latin America countries. MHI has recently announced the first internationally branded five-star hotel in Iran, Gran Melià Ghoo.
Q) You recently launched the Meliá PRO initiative for travel agents. What has the response been like from the travel trade?
Meliá Hotels International recognises the importance of our collaborative partners and work to ensure they have the tools and programs necessary to maximise their income and so achieve mutual benefits. During this time we have received 290,000 visits to our online platform from which high percentage are repetitive agents and members of the loyalty program Meliá PRO Rewards.
Meliá PRO Rewards philosophy, is based on motivating all its members to increase bookings at our hotels, and optimising communication with travel agents; for helping them reach a better understanding about our hotels, making their activity easier.
In 2015 with Meliá PRO travel agents portal we increased 36% sales from travel agencies which was basically through our digital solution and the call centre. The biggest growth comes from the regions outside of Spain, where we have a large acceptance. However, Spain still remains the main source country, followed by USA, Italy, Brazil, Mexico and the UK. Currently we have around 25,000 agencies registered in our digital solution for travel agents and around 120,000 members of our loyalty programme.
Q) What other global regions/countries are you focusing your development efforts on, and do you have any long-term targets in terms of portfolio growth?
MHI has a strong expansion plan for North America this year with three brands, INNSIDE by Meliá, Meliá Hotels & Resorts and ME by Meliá, entering the USA for the first time. The Company will be launching INNSIDE New York NoMad March 2016, ME Miami in April 2016 and Meliá Costa Hollywood will open later in the year.
The company has also just signed Iran’s first five-star international hotel with the announcement of Gran Meliá Ghoo Hotel, scheduled to open 2017. MHI is a pioneer in entering markets as the Group was also the first to enter Cuba 25 years ago, and it has further plans to consistently expand in Iran over the coming years, taking advantage of the expected economic boost following the International sanctions’ lift.
Although we cannot yet announce MHI’s growth targets until the Strategic Plan (2016-18) is disclosed, I can say that the company’s expansion plan for the period aims to surpass the former Strategic Plan’s achievements, from 2012-2015, where MHI increased its portfolio, including pipeline, in almost 100 hotels.
Geographically we keep an eye on opportunities in our consolidated, traditional markets, such as the main European capital cities, Spanish Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and at the same time, focus a strong growth on emerging regions such as Latin America, Asia Pacific and the English-speaking Caribbean, where we have recently entered with the Meliá Nassau and the Meliá Braco Village in Jamaica.
When it comes to MHI’s long term goals, the company strategically plans to strengthen the premium and upscale portfolio, above the midscale segment. MHI will also increase the number of hotels operated under management contracts to become a ‘management-oriented’ focused hotel Group.
Q) And which of your brands do you think will drive Meliá’s growth in the coming years?
MHI is growing all brands within its portfolio, as the company has positioned each brand to target different consumer segments through experiences and ages. Each brand has a strong pipeline of hotel openings with a total of 25 planned for 2016.
Alongside developing Gran Melià, Melià Hotels & Resorts, INNSIDE by Melià and Sol Hotels & Resorts in the APAC region, the group is excited to introduce the Paradisus by Meliá brand, MHI’s most exclusive all-inclusive resort concept. Paradisus resorts are extremely successful in the Caribbean area and we believe the brand has an extraordinary growth potential in APAC resort destinations.