Since its founding in 1956, Meliá Hotels International has grown from its first hotel in Mallorca, Spain, to a presence today in 40 different countries with 376 hotels under seven brands. And, there are no indications of slowing down. In 2016 alone, Meliá plans to sign a new hotel every two to three weeks and open 25 new hotels in 15 countries, adding 6,000 rooms to its portfolio. Hotel Business caught up with Pablo González, Meliá’s newly appointed director of development, who is overseeing the company’s largest pipeline in its history. González previously served as VP of development for Mexico and Central America for Hyatt Hotels Corp.
How are you settling into your new position? I have worked in the industry for more than 25 years, and I am extremely excited, confident and humbled to bring all of my knowledge and expertise to a leading hotelier like Meliá Hotels International. I am in familiar territory and feel confident and enthusiastic to execute the scope of work I’ve been tasked with.
Can you describe how your previous experience prepared you for the next step? My time before Meliá prepared me not only to recognize opportunities but also to seize them. Prior to working with hospitality brands, I worked in the financial industry, gaining vast experience in acquisitions, collections and workouts with companies like Paratus FIG, DB Real Estate and BBVA Bancomer. This experience is what taught me to recognize what motivates investors. The insight I learned here also taught me how to best communicate with investors and developers—which is transparently—while clearly identifying the advantages of working together. In the end, investors just want to know this is a profitable investment for them as well.
What appeals most to you about the director of development position? I find it highly appealing that my work is international, in every sense of the term. Not only do I support global business objectives like extending our brands into international markets, work which I thoroughly enjoy, but I get to be a citizen of the world. That means embracing diversity in its every state, including learning to communicate and do business with people from all cultures. It’s incredibly rewarding to take an amazing product, like one of our brands, introduce it to a new market, and watch the local and international community respond so well to it.
In 2016, Meliá Hotels plans to open 25 new hotels in 15 countries and sign a new hotel every two to three weeks. How would you define the company’s recent shift? The company’s path is defined by where we want to be in the future, and the goal is to expand our global footprint. We want our guests to be able to count on us wherever they travel, either for work or leisure, and are seeking the best partners to accomplish this. In the past, we focused on expanding only within Europe, but it wasn’t long before we realized we could be much more than that. We are proud to have been the first Spanish hotel company with a presence in key markets such as China, the Middle East and the U.S., and, today, we’re still leaders in traditional markets like Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
What is your goal to expand Meliá Hotels’ footprint beyond 2016? What we hope for the future is that the world’s most important cities will be home to our brands. Our versatility will be the key to accomplishing that goal. We are the world’s largest resort company; we also successfully manage [European Plan] hotels in key gateway cities around the globe. We hope to continue expanding, in both resorts and city hotels, and our capability to manage both sides of the business, leisure and business travel, will make it possible.
Which international markets are currently on your radar? We would like to be in gateway cities across the globe, especially throughout the Americas. We are looking to expand in markets where we can further create awareness for our brands, as well as locations with strong international communities. That means having presence in cities like Santiago, Chile; Mexico City; Bogota, Colombia; New York; and Chicago.
Do you foresee continued expansion in the U.S. market? We are very interested in penetrating key U.S. cities, or gateway cities, with strong international communities. Cities like Washington, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Dallas and Chicago, for example, are attractive because of the diversity of their residents and the international tourism and business traffic they sustain annually. That is why our Innside New York NoMad and ME Miami openings this spring are so important. They are milestones and flagship properties that are paving the way to future openings in aspirational cities like the aforementioned.
Which Meliá brands are gaining traction? While all of our brands at Meliá are gaining traction, I’m particularly excited about ME by Meliá, Paradisus Resorts, Sol and Innside. These brands are innovative and disrupting the traditional resort and hotel industry, transforming traditional hotel experiences into exceptional hotel experiences that meet the diverse needs and expectations of different types of guests.
As the company celebrates its 60-year anniversary in 2016, how would you characterize Meliá’s progress in development? Celebrating 60 years is quite an accomplishment because it means we’re celebrating 60 years of success. And, the experience we’ve garnered over this time doesn’t just extend to service but also to development. Where we are now, compared to where we were 60 years ago, is a world of difference. This year, we are focused on expanding internationally and innovating; we want to keep improving our products and experiences for our guests all over the world. We’re in a great place today, and we’re very excited about where we’re going tomorrow. HB