History is full of examples of innovators seizing on opportunities to create new markets and trends. One such birth took place in Mallorca in the 1950s, when the Mediterranean island was becoming the destination of choice for Europe’s middle-classes.
Gabriel Escarrer was born in a small village in Mallorca and went on to become a true pioneer of the hotel industry. In 1956 he founded a hotel company, which rose to become Meliá Hotels International. Meliá recently celebrated its 60th anniversary as the largest hotel group in Spain. It is the only company among the world’s top 20 hotel chains to start life as a leisure resort company, all others began life as city hotel groups.
From the very beginning, Escarrer had a clear vision of how hotel industry needed to address the growing boom in leisure travel in Europe. Just like all visionary entrepreneurs, he used his business acumen and empathy, along with total dedication to his work, to create a hotel company that would become the largest in Spain and the Mediterranean.
In the mid-1980s, the company began to grow globally; starting in Bali with the Meliá Bali resort, which is still seen today as a benchmark for South-east Asian hospitality. Following this successful international venture, Meliá became began opening up in major destinations, such as Mexico and the Dominican Republic, successfully exporting its hotel management know-how and the world-renowned passion for service that make’s Spain a world leader in hospitality.
In the 1990s, Meliá opened its first city hotels in major Europe, Latin America and Asia. Nowadays, 55% of its portfolio comprises city hotels, while also retaining its leadership in resort hotels. Meliá’s extensive experience and expertise in resort hotels has also enabled it to equip its city hotels – under brands such as ME by Meliá, Innside by Meliá, Gran Meliá or Meliá – with lifestyle attributes that compliment the urban and business experience. Business and leisure (bleisure) hotels are in increasing demand from modern travellers who are looking to combine work with city breaks, and it’s an area in which Meliá is gradually becoming a market leader.
Of the six brands operated by Meliá Hotels International, three include both city and resort hotels: Meliá Hotels & Resorts, ME by Meliá, and Gran Meliá. Two of the brands –Paradisus by Meliá and Sol Hotels – are exclusively for resort hotels. Meliá is therefore the hotel chain with the greatest proportion of resorts in its portfolio – 59% of all hotel rooms – and resort hotels generate 74% of company operating profits.
Innovation and sustainability: the keys to excellence
Throughout its 60-year history, Meliá has been able to anticipate the changing needs and expectations of its customers. In recent years, the company has responded to the increasing speed of transformation in the travel industry with the creation of new approaches to ‘lifestyle’ experiences. These new concepts have revolutionised Sol Hotels – Meliá’s classic resort hotel brand. Sol Hotels is currently home to four sub-brands, each offering a different concept to cater to the different needs and expectations of guests. Modern travellers no longer accept homogeneous resorts, instead they seek hotels in a great destinations, that provide a personalised experience to meet their profiles and expectations: this is where Sol Real Holidays, Sol House, Sol Beach House and Sol Katmandu Park & Resorts excel.
The market response has been extraordinary: the rebranded and repositioned hotels have increased Meliá’s profitability, improved its customer segmentation, and increased the number of direct bookings. These resorts have followed the path laid down by Meliá’s city hotels, and provided an increasingly tailored and customer-oriented experiences rather than merely focusing on their sales and distribution.
Meliá operate under the principle that its resorts have a responsibility to their surrounding environments and contribute to the development and well-being of their communities, while also generating long-term bonds. An example of this commitment can be seen in Paradisus by Meliá, a brand of luxury beachfront hotels offering an ultra-all-inclusive product. Paradisus by Meliá has set the benchmark wherever it has ventured, which so far includes Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Los Cabos in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Cuba. The brand continues to grow and we will soon see Paradisus resorts in other major global vacation destinations.
Paradisus resorts are perfectly integrated in the surrounding ecosystems. The importance of the environment and the relationship between the hotel to its local community is utmost in the group’s considerations. The hotels have developed a number of programmes to reduce CO2 emissions and conserve endangered local flora and fauna. Including programmes to protect mangroves, turtles, dune systems, coral reefs and much more. Purchasing policies prioritise products with limited environmental impact, and the hotels have also developed employment programmes for the elderly and for people with mobility issues, among other disadvantaged groups. Thanks to the partnership with UNICEF, Paradisus resorts take part in a programme to promote infant education and protection, as well as the prevention of child sexual exploitation.
As a listed company with an important family base, Meliá retains its vocation as a global hotel chain with a clear focus on leadership in resorts, and faces the future with solid family values. Gabriel Escarrer Jaume, the current CEO, Vice Chairman and son of the company founder, explains: “Our true legacy will be to create a prosperous and profitable company, not only for its employees and shareholders, but also for the community as a whole.”