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Gabriel Escarrer Gabriel Escarrer

Q & A with Gabriel Escarrer, CEO, Melia Hotels International

GABRIEL ESCARRER, CEO, MELIÁ HOTELS INTERNATIONAL, HAD JUST TURNED 21 WHEN

HE OPENED THE COMPANY’S FIRST HOTEL ON PALMA DE MALLORCA. SIX DECADES LATER, HE RUNS THE LARGEST SPANISH HOTEL CHAIN WITH MORE THAN 350 PROPERTIES IN 35 COUNTRIES.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: The recently announced new additions to the company’s portfolio underline Meliá Hotels International’s commitment to the GCC. What makes the region a strategically important market for you?

GABRIEL ESCARRER: The strong growth of the region as a tourism destination as well as transient business and leisure hub makes it a focus for our growth.

Our presence in the Middle East and GCC region will allow us to serve the regional markets and bridge a gap between the European and Asian markets, both of which we are strategically positioned in.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: The company has outlined ambitious plans for the Middle East and for Dubai in particular with three new properties scheduled to open in the emirate in the coming years. What makes the Meliá brands the ideal fit for Dubai’s evolving hospitality market?

GABRIEL ESCARRER: The lifestyle luxury ME by Meliá brand will add a new dimension of psychographically oriented hospitality to the region with our ME Dubai and ME Doha scheduled to open in the coming years.

The debut of the Innside by Meliá brand will serve the growing midscale and four-star segment, which is an important and expanding component of Dubai’s hotel portfolio.

The new Meliá Downtown Residences will cater to the strong demand for larger, well-appointed hotel units, which offer guests true international standards and service.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What other MENA countries are on your radar?

GABRIEL ESCARRER: With the opening of Meliá Doha in a key location of the booming West Bay district nearly one year ago, we are looking to strengthen our competitive position in Qatar and other extended Middle East markets, including Oman, Bahrain, Maldives, Kazakhstan, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: The company aims to become the first choice for Chinese tourists visiting Europe. What steps are being taken in order to meet the specific requirements and preferences of Chinese travellers?

GABRIEL ESCARRER: China will become the main feeder market worldwide. In 2014, over 100 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas and this is expected to double by 2020; their spend whilst travelling was the highest when compared to other travellers.

As outbound travel from China continues to grow at an exponential rate, we are rolling out a Chinese welcome programme, Pengyou by Meliá, which includes a comprehensive staff training programme, as well as amenities and food and beverage offer adaptation, gradually introduced in 80 hotels throughout the portfolio.

Meliá recently announced a partnership with leading Chinese online tour operator, Ctrip, which saw 81 of our hotels made available to Ctrip customers and marked a significant step in an ambitious roadmap for our company.

In addition, Meliá has also launched its official Wechat and Wibo pages and the company is engaging with Asian customers through key social channels in China, as well as Facebook in Indonesia.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: In your opinion, what core values and amenities distinguish Meliá from its competitors? What are those Meliá values that Middle Eastern travellers appreciate the most?

GABRIEL ESCARRER: Meliá Hotels International allows travellers and guests to experience the warmth of true Spanish hospitality, both in service and experiences, which is being adapted to integrate with the local culture and expectations of the regional markets, while maintaining international standards.

The traditional oriental values of service and hospitality are very much in line with our Spanish service culture and that is very much appreciated.