Which are the competitive advantages of Barceló against other international chains?
We have a quality product, based on the idea of offering a different experience to our clients at each hotel. During the last years, we have made an important investment effort to renew and improve our portfolio, and we have include differential concepts that provide new experiences to our guests: the space station of Sants in Barcelona, the avant-garde movement of Raval, the sophisticated atmosphere of our Urban Beach and the attraction of “Princess for one day” at our holiday resorts, among others. All that keeping our philosophy that the clients could be in contact with the local culture wherever they are.
In addition, having a consolidated brand with a good position in the market is the key, also having an efficient and flexible costs structure and a sound financial situation. Lastly, we should highlight the competitive advantage that suppose to have a qualified team committed to the values of our company: enthusiasm, responsibility, honesty, efficiency, flexibility and service spirit.
Do you consider the economic situation in countries from Middle East and some countries of North Africa as a business opportunity?
The impact that this situation has had over our operations in the Balearic and Canary Island is limited. It is true that in 2011 an important increase on the number of tourist arrivals to Balearic and Canary Island was produced as a consequence of the Arab Spring, in 2012 airports recovered normal levels and even registered drops in the number of passengers as a consequence of the disappearance of Spanair or Orizonia and the reduction of routes of other airlines. Therefore, from our point of view the key for the results to continue being reasonable on the islands is that the product is still attractive and competitive for the traditional European clients, as German and British, and we are being able to catch new worthwhile markets, as the Russian.
How important is the branding in a sector like the hotel one?
Branding is a fundamental tool for making tangible a promise of service, specially in an environment of surplus and mature markets. Hotel chains connect to clients at an experience level through our brand, which function is to be a reminder of a pleasant experience.
Main international chains as IHG, Hilton or Marriot base their success in the brand management on the fact of not focusing on the product but on the client and the experience. For the Spanish chains of a more vacation origin, branding continues to be fundamental to support the credibility needed to work with Tour Operators and also to develop our direct distribution channels.
What does a company like Barceló Hoteles need to keep growing abroad?
Our philosophy is to grow rationally, consolidating the places in which we already are to optimize the efficiency of our strategy and to open in new closer markets that offers us the possibility of obtaining operational synergies with the markets in which we are already.
How do you manage the on-line presence of the brand?
That is a determined commitment from our side. We have our own team of more than 20 people working on the on-line business, both directly and through third parties. And during the last years and at the same time of the restructuring of our corporate, we have increased the investment on the on-line business (both in team and campaigns) into a rate higher than 30%.
The increase of commercial relations with Asiatic countries, has led the company to show a greater interest to break into these markets? Which would be the advantages and disadvantages?
From our side we do not see the leap to Asia in the short term, unless having the very specific opportunity in which we see sense. Our growing philosophy is to expand us to those places that allows us to be efficient from the structures point of view. In that sense, we have challenges to achieve in Germany, south Europe (Italy and Greece) and North Africa (Morocco or Egypt) or in the Caribbean, where we could increase our fees before opening new markets as the Asiatic. Nevertheless, our history shows that we have been capable of using the opportunities that were not on our plans, as happened when we opened our first Complex in Bávaro. Therefore, if an opportunity appears with an enough critical mass of hotels and fitting in our strategy, we could take the leap to Orient ahead of schedule.
Which is the promotion strategy that you are following in the international markets?
Regarding traditional channels, to reinforce the commercial alliances with big Tour Operators and Travel Agencies, keeping always a diversified position and favoring the hiring with new markets as the Russian. On the other side, we are making a very important effort on-line, especially in our direct channel; we have increased the investment in final users aimed campaigns and the budget of e-marketing, we have improved the usability of the web and increased the number of languages, among other things.
What role does new technologies play in the hotel industry?
They are key on distribution and knowing the client, so they are going to be a determined element of competitive advantage in the future as management, information, promotion and sales tools and means to reach directly clients.