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Interview – John Alarcon: Meliá Aims to Open 10 More Hotels in Greece

Sol Beach House Phu Quoc in Vietnam by Melia Hotels International.

Sol Beach House Phu Quoc in Vietnam by Melia Hotels International.

“The Meliá philosophy is based on the phrase “leisure at heart, business in mind” and Greece is a destination in which we see there are opportunities for applying this strategy… We invite hoteliers to join us and become a part of the Melia family!” – John Alarcon, Meliá Hotels International

Spanish hotel chain Meliá Hotels International has Greece high on its agenda, according to the company’s Development Director Southern Europe, John Alarcon.

Meliá Hotels International is the third European hotel group, the first in Spain, and the 18th worldwide.

With currently one hotel in Greece – the Meliá Athens – in its portfolio, the company’s goal is to increase its footprint in Greece significantly.

GTP Headlines recently caught up with Melia’s John Alarcon and had the chance to discuss the company’s future plans for the Greek market.

As underlined by Alarcon, with Greece one of the priority countries for its global growth strategy, Meliá aims to open no less than 10 hotels in Greece in the coming years.

“Apart from Athens, we are also interested in islands as Corfu, Crete, Kos, Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes,” Alarcon said.

Melia Athens in Greece by Melia Hotels International.

Melia Athens in Greece by Melia Hotels International.

  • GTP: Mr Alarcon, is Greece included on the agenda of Meliá Hotels International in terms of the company’s global growth strategy?

John Alarcon: Our global strategy includes gaining greater presence in the Caribbean, South East Asia and Southern Europe. Greece is certainly high on our list of key destinations in the Mediterranean that we are interested in expanding in over the next 3 years, beginning in 2020.

  • GTP: Where exactly is this interest focused? On building new hotels, operating newly built hotels under a Meliá brand or rebranding already active units?

John Alarcon: The current strategy of Meliá is to enter into management or franchise agreements with local hoteliers for properties in the middle and upper range that have at least 150-200 rooms. We have shifted from the ‘asset-heavy’ philosophy after several decades and are now keen to enter into ‘asset-light’ agreements, using our commercial expertise to make any hotel investment a success. Repositioning and operation are part of our services and we also offer a range of lifestyle brands, depending on the profile of the unit, its location and so on.

  • GTP: How will Greek hotel owners benefit by striking a partnership with Meliá?

John Alarcon: With over 60 years of experience in the resort hotel sector, we have an enormous amount of commercial expertise and experience to offer. Meliá Hotels International is currently the leading leisure hotel company in the world, ranked 18th worldwide, the third largest in Europe and number one in Spain. Local owners can therefore definitely benefit from collaborating with us as we are dedicated to providing the highest level of services and professionalism that one would expect from such an established global brand. There is a lot of opportunity at this present time in Greece, with investors keen to enter the market. This is beneficial to many hotel owners who may have had no real dealings with the running of their property, or family owned business who have not had the tools to make their units profitable. We aim at achieving maximum profitability, and medium and long term value for all.

Melia Athens in Greece by Melia Hotels International.

Melia Athens in Greece by Melia Hotels International.

  • GTP: Right now Meliá has one hotel in Greece – the Meliá Athens. How does Meliá see its business developing in the Greek capital? Is the group looking to add more Meliá-branded hotels in its Athens portfolio?

John Alarcon: Meliá Athens has been operational in the heart of the Greek capital for a decade now and naturally we have followed the evolution of the city over the years. We see it as an ideal destination for our ‘bleisure’ (business & leisure) model due to its increasing popularity for visitors using it as a stop-over and also due to its appeal as a unique destination. The hospitality market is currently experiencing a substantial growth in Athens and we are open to any opportunities for expansion.

  • GTP: In general, what does a destination need for Meliá to consider opening a hotel there? In your opinion, what other destinations in Greece are ideal for the Meliá concept?

John Alarcon: As a global leader in the leisure hospitality sector, we have a presence in Europe, North & Central America, South America, Africa, the Middle Orient, Asia and the Caribbean. Our well-developed customer profile means that we are able to succeed in any demographic region where there is a demand for the resort and ‘bleisure’ experience. Greece is therefore one of the priority countries in our global growth strategy with its wide choice of resort locations and its popularity as a top tourist destination. Apart from Athens, we are also interested in islands as Corfu, Crete, Kos, Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes.

Melia Athens in Greece by Melia Hotels International.

Melia Athens in Greece by Melia Hotels International.

  • GTP: Do we have a number in regard to how many hotels Meliá is interested in opening in Greece in the coming year? And also, which brands are being considered to be developed in Greece?

John Alarcon: Our aim is to open minimum 10 hotels within the next few years and we are planning to reach an agreement for the first one in early 2020. In terms of brands, Meliá has several lifestyle options which can be successfully introduced to the Greek market, depending on the location and the psychographic profile of each property. Our Gran Meliá, ME by Meliá, Meliá and INNSiDE are just some of the concepts that can work well in Greece. Each brand is distinct and tailored to meet the needs of specific client profiles and are beneficial to the owner on a local level in terms of positioning his property successfully.

  • GTP: Currently, 60% of Meliá’s portfolio is comprised of resorts and 40% of urban “bleisure” (business + leisure) hotels. Does Meliá see Greece as a destination ideal to develop both resorts and bleisure hotels?

John Alarcon: The Meliá philosophy is based on the phrase “leisure at heart, business in mind” and Greece is a destination in which we see there are opportunities for applying this strategy in Athens and the islands. As a Spanish company, we have a hospitality-service mentality just like Greece and are confident that we can use the same model that was adopted in our own country for the rebranding and repositioning of many properties in popular tourist destinations. What is of paramount importance to us is creating properties that reflect the local character and culture — the guest should feel that he or she is in Athens, or Corfu, and not just in a Meliá Hotel!

Adults-only resort Gran Meliá de Mar in Mallorca by Melia Hotels International.

Adults-only resort Gran Meliá de Mar in Mallorca by Melia Hotels International.

  • GTP: Does Meliá see any challenges for expanding its business in Greece?

John Alarcon: With our vast know-how and experience, and having more than 390 hotels in more than 45 countries, we are not expecting to face any serious challenges in Greece. There is definitely great interest in the market at the moment and a lot of competition, but we believe that there is room for all. As the country continues to improve its infrastructure and flight connections, we see it as the perfect time to expand our presence in the Greek market.

  • GTP: In the last three years, Meliá invested some 130 million euros to create a ‘data culture’, in this way gaining a very good position in the hospitality industry’s digital distribution. Could we have some details on this?

John Alarcon: Investing in technology is essential if we are to maintain our competitive edge in the market and we are an industry leader in this respect. The collection of ‘big data’ allows us to gain a better grasp of our customer profiles and therefore be more effective. In addition, streamlining online sales makes for more profitable units at less cost, as well as gaining higher customer satisfaction. The distribution platform of Meliá Hotels International allows optimum sales, whether under a franchise or a management model. Once we have completed our digital transformation on the revenue generating tools, we hope to complete our digital transformation for all back office procedures by 2022.

Sol Beach House Ibiza by Melia Hotels International.

Sol Beach House Ibiza by Melia Hotels International.

  • GTP: What concerns do you have as a hospitality professional? In other words, is there something regarding the industry that keeps you up at night?

John Alarcon: Working in the hospitality industry for many years, I would say that we are currently seeing a growth in the market and this is something very exciting. Working for an established company like Meliá means that any challenge is faced with professionalism and effectiveness and it is a brand that is constantly adapting to the market trends. Of course it is natural to experience both highs and lows in this sector but on the whole, I don’t stay up at night worrying about my job at all.

  • GTP: A great number of hoteliers read our website. What message would you like for us to pass on to them?

John Alarcon: Meliá Hotels International’s underlying approach is based on that warm hospitality and passion for service which both the Greeks and Spanish share. In addition to that, over 60 years in the market means that we are a company that understands the need to work closely with local partners and to create long-term relationships in order to achieve success. Our goal is to foster high quality sustainable growth and we invite hoteliers to join us and become a part of the Melia family!

Founded in 1956, Meliá Hotels International is a global leader in leisure hospitality. Its leisure experience is integrated into six differentiated brands, each with its own personality. Meliá Hotels International is increasingly “asset light”, as 75 percent of its rooms portfolio is currently under Management or lease or franchise contracts.

About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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