Ramón Aragonés (Madrid 1954) studied Hospitality and Tourism at the University of Palma de Mallorca, the International School of Hotel and Tourism Management of Louvain (Belgium) and the Center for Higher Education in Hospitality of Palma de Mallorca.
Ramón Aragonés has spent most of his extensive career in the world of tourism. After holding several positions of responsibility in Spain, Belgium and Venezuela, he was named operations manager at Hesperia Hotels in 1999 and managing director of the same chain in 2000.
Following the integration of Hesperia Hotels into the NH Hotel Group in 2009, Aragonés was appointed as general manager of Business Unit Operations in Spain before becoming chief operations officer for the entire group in 2011.
In January 2017, Ramón Aragonés was named CEO of NH Hotel Group. In his new position, he oversees all areas of the company and is responsible for its strategic plan, the expansion and development of its lines of business, and the consolidation of the NH brands.
What are the competitive advantages of NH Hotel Group opposite other international chains?
We are highly specialized in creating differential experiences for urban tourism, for both business and leisure travelers, and we offer a wide range of strategic locations in the most important and cosmopolitan quarters of the top European and Latin American cities. We have a long history in customer service and various brands tailored to the preferences of each customer, guaranteeing memorable experiences to meet every need.
In recent years, we have worked to improve quality and customer perception, particularly by boosting our portfolio in the upper upscale segment. With this objective, we have invested over 200 million euros to reposition and adapt our hotels. Whereas two years ago, our premium NH Collection brand represented 9% of our total room offer, it now represents 20% and continues to grow. Thanks to this transformation and the adoption of efficient strategies to manage revenue and demand, we are growing faster than our main competitors in every location while expanding our market share and boosting brand recognition.
You own the NH Hotels, NH Collection, Nhow and Hesperia Resorts brands. What are the advantages and drawbacks for a company when working with several brands?
The main advantage is our ability to meet consumers’ differing needs with a range of proposals that fit each customer’s way of living, working and interacting, with a clear emphasis on quality as the common denominator. We are flexible, and adapting to every customer and every situation is more than a job, it’s our calling. We have a specific operational pledge for each brand, as well as specific solutions designed to exceed customers’ expectations and make them feel special when they visit or stay at our hotels.
What role does new technology play in the hotel industry?
Technology has helped us accelerate our transformation process, achieve a unique and transversal vision of our business, generate efficiencies across the value chain, harness the potential of the economies of scale present in a company of our size, and improve the customer experience.
In the latter case, NH Hotel Group has introduced a number of innovations. They include groundbreaking projects in the industry like our “Instant Booking Tool,” which lets customers book their conferences and events online instantly, without having to call the hotel to check prices and availability; or new in-room technology such as our “Mood Rooms,” where guests enjoy experiential in-room environments based on their moods or specific needs. Technology is bringing these initiatives to life to improve consumer satisfaction and perception.
You are present in more than 30 countries. What have been the keys to success in your internationalization process?
Since its inception, NH Hotel Group has been a company with a thirst for expansion. Guided by our ambition to be leaders in the sector, we have created a flexible, attractive model for investors and owners around the world who want to grow sustainably alongside a profitable, recognized operator with great potential. Along with our powerful distribution network and experience in customer care, with a team of more than 20,000 people prepared to deliver excellent service, our ability to adapt to our partners’ needs is highly valued and ensures an advantageous relationship for both parties. Moreover, our company has a long record of acquisitions and organic growth, which greatly speeds up the process when a new hotel is integrated into the group. These factors are helping us to gradually expand our portfolio of hotels in extraordinary destinations in countries where we already have a significant presence, and at the same time, open the door to promising new markets.
Which markets are the most important to NH’s global business today, and which hold the most potential for the future?
Our presence is broadly diversified in terms of both rooms and the origin of revenue and customers. Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany are the group’s most important markets in Europe today. In Latin America, we have the strongest presence in Mexico and Colombia. Looking at the future, we aim to consolidate our leadership in our existing European and Latin American markets in the near and mid-term while assessing opportunities in emerging markets with great potential.
What are the biggest challenges for NH Hotel Group today?
NH Hotel Group is ideally positioned to take full advantage of the sector’s many prospects until 2019. Our next steps will be to focus on profiting from the investments we’ve made to maximize growth. We’ll work to achieve dynamic pricing strategies, making them increasingly efficient and linked to big data, and focus on improving efficiency and reducing inactivity. At the same time, we’ll take advantage of our current strengths to seek new opportunities for repositioning and organic expansion as a path to further growth. Our asset diversification is optimal, and we have presented an ambitious plan that will allow us to continue growing sustainably in terms of profitability and the quality of our offering.