- Economic, social and environmental sustainability is key to face the challenges of a tourism sector in the process of change
- Carlos Díez de la Lastra, general manager of Les Roches Marbella and moderator of the debate, has stressed the importance of turning hotels into part of the experience and the value of the human team to ensure excellence in service
Business leaders of Malaga’s hotel sector participated in the Gran Debate Hotelero, organized by Grupo Vía and held at Les Roches Marbella Global Hospitality Education on Thursday, September 20th. The focus of the conference was to define future industry actions aimed at strengthening the success model of the Costa del Sol as well as the role played by hospitality-related businesses in the region and their potential to convert hotels and destinations into unique, one-of-a-kind experiences for visitors.
The conference began with opening remarks by Maria Francisca Caracuel, Vice-Mayor, and Director of Urban Planning & Housing of the City of Marbella and Vice President of the Diputación de Malaga as well as Arturo Bernal, General Director of Tourism and Planning Costa del Sol. The two roundtable discussions included hotel industry leaders Luís Callejón, President AEHCOS, José Luque,General Director of Fuerte Hoteles, Sonia Tello, Regional Director of Business Development of Barceló Hotel Group, Fernando Al-Farkh, General Manager of Los Monteros & Spa 5 * GL., Rocío Galán, General Manager of Gran Meliá Don Pepe, Francisco Sa Teixeira, Director of Sales and Marketing at Kempinski Hotel, Jorge Manzur, General Manager of Puente Romano Beach Resort, and Manuel Camacho, Regional Director of Soho Boutique Hotels Málaga and Cádiz.
Aware of the challenges faced by the tourism industry on the Cosa de la Sol, the group of hoteliers gathered for the Gran Debate Hoteler agreed that it is necessary to ensure growth based on balance. Luis Callejón, president of the Association of Hoteliers of the Costa del Sol (Aehcos), stated that one of the greatest challenges for tourism in Andalusia is to achieve “sustainability, in three aspects: economic, social and environmental.“
The General Director of Tourism Costa del Sol, Arturo Bernal, confirmed that tourism is “the most important economic activity of the province of Malaga”. He highlighted that the Costa del Sol is “one of the most innovative, sustainable and cosmopolitan destinations of Europe thanks to the work of entrepreneurs, professionals and public institutions of the tourism industry that have been able to anticipate the demands of the new profile of tourists who more segmented, in continuous pursuit of experiences, are more demanding with the environment and connected 24 hours a day.“
For Carlos Díez de la Lastra, General Manager of Les Roches Marbella, and moderator of the debate “we must ensure the potential of the Costa del Sol by developing new strategies that transcend the traditional activities of a hotel. Tourism is an industry in constant evolution, and new trends force us to reflect on the brand we want and can be. It is impossible for a hotel in Marbella to compete in price with a hotel in Turkey, and to do so does not make sense either. Our mission should focus on attracting not so much the tourist, but the traveler who seeks experiences and is willing to increase their spending to find them. “
Hotels, Experience, and Training: Interconnected Elements
Globalization, technology, and especially new customer profiles have challenged the daily rhythm of tourism to which we are accustomed, and consequently the same is true of hotels. According to Benoît-Etienne Domenget, CEO of Sommet Education, one of the trends of the coming years will be the transformative journey or, what is the same, the natural evolution of experiential travel. Transformational travelers want to do more than experience a destination: they aspire to experience a different part of themselves that they discover in that destination. The experiential traveler is still to be exploited by the hotel industry according to Díez de la Lastra. He says that this “is an opportunity for hoteliers, who are looking for new formulas to increase turnover and the average time of stay. We must turn our hotels into the starting point of the trip, be the ‘top-of-mind’ of the future guest and become the protagonists of their experience. This is achieved by taking an active role and offering and promoting initiatives to the traveler before they ever depart on their journey.”
This change of direction towards experiential tourism, in which many hotels on the Costa de Sol are already working, is unthinkable if there is not a trained and motivated team of people making it happen. This is where the professionalization of all those involved in the daily life of a hotel becomes more relevant. “Training is a key element in the construction of competitive destinations. We must nurture the quality of the service and for that, it is essential to protect talent, retain it and learn to motivate teams. The care of the staff as an internal client is standing out as a generator of efficiency in the hotels. Every time there are more cases that link the results of occupation and profitability with the improvement in the conditions of the employees. The transformation of the human team is the key to boosting hotel companies and their approach to new ways of tourism.”