The exodus of 5 million visitors to other destinations such as Turkey, Tunisia, and Egypt during the recession that handicapped the Spanish tourism industry in the mid-2000s, initially scared hoteliers on the Costa del Sol. However, it turned out to be a positive change for the regional tourism industry. The higher, more exclusive profile of Costa del Sol tourism that has emerged since then has meant that hotels and related businesses have tailored their services and amenities to provide an attractive value not found in other European destinations. The result has been record growth, year after year. This was the primary topic being discussed at the 2019 Gran Debate Hotelero Costa del Sol, held on September 26th at Les Roches Marbella.
Businesspeople and executives of the hotel sector in Malaga met last week at the Gran Debate Hotelero (organized by the Grupo Vía) to analyze the challenges tourism is confronting on the Costa del Sol. José Luis Córdoba, General Director of Turismo Andaluz and Andalucía Lab participated in the meeting along with Julián Cabanillas, General Manager of Marbella Club, Francisco Sá Teixeira, Director of Sales and Marketing of Kempinski Bahia, Andrés Herrero Salguero, Vice President of AEHCOS (Association of Hotel Entrepreneurs Costa del Sol), José Luque, General Director of Fuerte Hotels Group, Carlos Nieto, Director of Expansion of Ikos Resorts and Fernando Al-Farkh, General Manager of Hotel Los Monteros, and Carlos Díez de la Lastra, CEO of Les Roches Marbella, who has moderated both tables.
The Costa del Sol tourism industry recorded its best August ever with a total of 2.7 million overnight hotel stays and more than 680,000 tourist arrivals, with increases of 4.3% and 7.4% respectively (vs 2018). In total so far this year, there have been over 14.3 million hotel stays and 4 million travelers to the Costa del Sol. In this context, the change in tourist profile stands out above all. In addition to the decline of Germans and British in favor of the domestic market, the hoteliers who gathered in Les Roches for the hotel industry debate have highlighted the evolution of the Costa del Sol client towards a higher profile, which seeks quality above affordability.
“The movement of the 5 million clients borrowed from other destinations for the recovery of these markets (Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt), which frightened the entire sector for the possible loss of customers, has become a filter of sorts on the type of tourist visiting the Costa del Sol. We have stayed with the model that seeks greater added value, greater quality”, commented Carlos Díez de la Lastra, CEO of Les Roches Marbella and moderator of both discussion tables. “We have lost low profile clients but we have remained with medium-high profiles, which is very positive for our region. In general, growth in volume suffers, but hotels increase in price and value”, he added.
The participating hoteliers also highlighted how new generations are conditioning precedents, guided by three characteristics: social-environmental responsibility, technological agility and the search for unique experiences. These new generations of travelers are infecting the previous ones and hotels have had to adapt to this demand. “Before, the guest went to a beach or resort hotel in search of rest and relaxation. Now looking for new experiences, and the private hotel must lead the development of a complete offer of new experiences depending on the profile”, said Díez de la Lastra.
Hotel Trends: Technology without forgetting the human factor
The rise of new technologies is undoubtedly one of the key trends in the global tourism and hospitality, and this was the subject of the second discussion table. Thanks to new technologies, hotel companies can provide customers with greater customization, comfort, and control, in a way that transforms the way they interact with brands before and after their stay.
The debate participants reflected on the extent to which the processes are going to be defined by technology and the effect this will have on human talent in hotels. In the words of Julián Cabanillas, General Manager of Marbella Club: “technology in hotels has to serve to automate the predictable and to humanize the exceptional”. According to Cabanillas, for hotels that are in the lowest part of the hotel polarization, the application of technology in processes such as check-in or check-out will be very useful, and the more `technifiable` the better. For those in higher-end luxury hotels, technology will serve not to eliminate personnel, but to facilitate the processes and that the personnel dedicates to providing more added value to the client. The biggest challenge in this context will be to enrich the human factor and bet on talent in an industry that is eminently emotional.