Raúl González

CEO of Barceló Hotels/strong>

“The Spanish tourism industry could become a world landmark. We are not taking advantage of our opportunities in the right way”

Has the sun-and-sand model of tourism run out of steam? Do we need a new tourism strategy?

We have dedicated ourselves to the sun-and-sand model of tourism for many years, and although it’s true that new reasons for traveling are emerging all the time, most of our customers come to Spain to take advantage of our good climate. So the model has not become outdated yet. Nevertheless, we do still need a tourism strategy. The hotel model needs more investment and fewer constraints. Spain has to transform itself little by little into a country whose offer achieves a slightly higher standard, reaching customers with greater purchasing power. In contrast with other sectors, what businesses in the hotel sector often come across is a series of obstacles that prevent them from carrying out the renovation work or improvements to establishments that would make it possible to raise the standard of the offer. The Spanish tourism industry and, in particular, hotel management in this country could become a world landmark. We are not taking advantage of our opportunities in the right way.

What does innovation in tourism mean?

The concept of the buffet and all-included model were innovative concepts in the past. These days, innovation and the use of technology continue to have an important role, above all in marketing, distribution, and certain elements related to the hotels themselves. Nevertheless, customers are more concerned about having decent Wi-Fi than the latest building technology: by the time they’ve understood it they’ve left the hotel.

Is it essential these days to sell experiences that generate excitement and emotions?

Indeed it is. Our slogan, “A world of experiences,” says it very clearly. There are other countries where construction—land in general—is cheaper, meaning that finding a differentiating factor is essential. If we do not want to be uncompetitive and have a costs issue as a country, we must be capable of differentiating ourselves and selling unique experiences, exploiting our resources with the aim of generating a destination that is in itself attractive. When it comes to attracting tourists to Barcelona, for example, we have to be able to sell something more than a bed and hotel service: we have to sell the Sagrada Familia and all the rest of the city’s charms.

What do you expect from Spanish policy in your field in the coming years?

Sometimes I have said, to no great success, that it would make a lot of sense to award grants to support tourist development as in the case of large infrastructures. When the construction of an infrastructure is supported and promoted, the day the work is finished the relationship with the country receiving the money also comes to an end. Nevertheless, when it comes to helping companies who want to carry out tourist development in this country, it is Spanish companies that take care of the design, construction, and management, which means that these relations last.

Is tourism the sector with a smile?

That is one of the nicest sides of the tourism sector, since it is one of the few business activities where you make money by making other people happy, and in that respect we are really lucky.