The Executive Vice President of Meliá Hotels International, André P. Gerondeau was one of the leading participants in the event, sharing a panel debate with senior executives from the OTA Destinia, the major travel group Wamos, TripAdvisor and Artiem Hotels.
The debate was moderated by Joan Molas, the President of the Spanish Hotel Confederation, who began by introducing the paradox of having to transform the Spanish tourism model when tourism is growing at double-digit rates every year.
The Panel agreed on two key statements: firstly, the inevitability and immediacy of a shift towards the “new economy”. The “new tourism economy” is not the future, but the present. The increasing use of digital technology is forcing us to open our minds and adapt our business models to new types of customer relationships, inspiration, recommendation, and purchase. Nowadays, we have to develop powerful brands and values to differentiate ourselves from others. We have new demographic segments (with Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen-Z all together) and also new psychographic segments defined by their tastes, their lifestyle, their family structure and values, etc.
Secondly, they also all agreed that technology is not an end in itself, but simply a means to achieving greater efficiency and optimization in a new global society, in which, as they brilliantly explained, travel companies face the challenge of “mass personalisation”, as people, individuals, remain the most important thing, even in the new digital era.
The Executive Vice President of Meliá Hotels first provided a general overview of change, explaining that the process should be understood by businesses as a company-wide cultural transformation, above and beyond any specific technological or organizational change. That point was agreed on by all of the speakers, before Gerondeau went on to identify three key factors in adapting our tourism to the new paradigm: more brands, better segmentation, and a commitment to add value to the experience provided to customers, beyond simply considering value for money when responding to the challenge of the profitability of our tourism activities.
According to Gerondeau, the virtuous cycle will begin with “the greater customer knowledge provided by digitalization, allowing us to better target our offers, ensure the personalization of value propositions, customer satisfaction and increased spending, all while generating greater loyalty to the brand. “The proof”, he said, “is in the fact that we now have 5 million members in the Meliá Rewards loyalty programme, whose level of satisfaction, spending and repetition is much higher than average (2/3 of members stay at a Company hotel at least once a year).”
The general reaction of the speakers was positive towards transformation and its possibilities, but they also emphasized the risks involved, such as the gap between the “traditional” economy and the often misnamed “collaborative economy”, or the adjustments that all companies and industries will have to carry out before they can benefit from the improvements in productivity and wellbeing created by the new system.