"Our guest does not look for a brand, but a recognition, a different experience"
In an unforgettable talk, Ricardo Orozco, Vice President of Operations of Solmar Hotels & Resorts detailed the differentials of the luxury chain, analyzed the behavior of today's guest and shared his vision on the region.
What are the news in terms of openings and renovations at the regional level?
The most ambitious project of our brand is Rancho San Lucas, where we have more than 300 ha. of land to develop. We have concluded the first phase of the hotel development of the Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas and the Grand Solmar The Residences at Rancho San Lucas. We started with 89 suites and at this moment five more buildings are under construction, three of them will start operating in May and the rest during 2019, and so we will continue to conclude this project, adding a total of 620 suites with a selection of gastronomy exclusive with more than 10 restaurants, bars, nightclubs, sports bars, spas, amenities, salt lagoon, children's area, water park and shops, among other services.
What did the opening of the Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas Resort Golf & Spa and the Grand Solmar Residences in Rancho San Lucas mean to you, the newest luxury resorts within the brand's collection of properties?
Fate is growing a lot, incorporating world-renowned competitors and that gives us, in a certain way, the possibility of aligning ourselves to offer a proposal equal or better to theirs. This puts us a challenge as a brand, which with our experience is already dominated, although we are aware that it is a very ambitious project. I am convinced that this will raise us as a group and we will be able to be one on one with other major hotel operators.
What are the differential factors of the group with regard to other large international hotel chains?
I think there are basic ones in the hospitality segment such as focusing on the human factor; not only for the guests but also for the collaborators. The work must be centralized around them, their needs and their experience. The focus must go to these two directions. We can not demand a collaborator to give a good treatment or a good service if we do not treat him well. Our guest does not look for a brand, but a recognition, a different and unique experience. Providing something unique is the most natural and the simplest, that we have achieved, but applying it has been the most laborious. We have collaborators in the chain with more than 10 years of experience and that speaks very well of our group, since people feel comfortable being part of our family. The same thing happens with our guests, we have visitors from several generations who have stayed with us for a long time.
How is the company's relationship with the OTAs? And with the traditional travel agencies?
The OTA is something less personalized, but very technical, instead the travel agent must be encouraged, you have to talk to him, give him a deal and follow up. The OTA generates more volume, but as our brand is luxury, the traveler in this segment who chooses us chooses a travel professional. OTA is a very important component but not in this category. We have more business relationship through direct sales and with retail agencies. We also achieved an alliance with Preferred Hotels & Resorts and that has helped us a lot.
What is the relationship of the group with technology? What kind of Marketing actions do you carry out?
We are innovators, every three months we do an analysis of everything we have in terms of technology. We have just relaunched our new website that brings a new scheme in terms of mobile systems, the speed to load the web and the ability to browse without Internet. In addition, it is possible to connect from the device to communicate with our telephone line and add WhatsApp Business. Today, a customer can enter our portal from any device and buy a package from anywhere in the world in real time and will be confirmed in real time.
What impact does the corporate market have on your hotels? What is the proposal of the firm for this segment?
We work a lot with American Express and through Preferred Hotels & Resorts. We focus on groups of no more than 40 rooms. We attack weddings and groups, and we are present in certain trade shows or accounts that generate this type of business.
In a highly competitive market, where new players like Airbnb are added, what are the biggest challenges to face?
Airbnb as such is a very basic lease, the segment that seeks luxury does not want to reach an apartment in the middle of nowhere without any service. As a user I have done a test and it was not a good experience. They do not offer you any kind of services. I consider that there is an audience that can opt for this, but not the general. I think that being something new has caused an impact, but I'm not sure that its approach is disruptive to the hotel market. At first it was a great novelty, but it is not working as much as at that moment. The market that has greater purchasing power does not choose it.
Mexico integrates the Top Ten destinations worldwide. How do you analyze the current tourism situation from the new government?
In Mexico, the groups of hoteliers have a very clear vision: to keep growing always forward. In the private initiative we are well organized and we always look for different ways to boost the industry.
How do you analyze the situation of the hotel sector in Latin America? How do you think it will evolve in the coming years?
The problem that most affects us today is the sociopolitical one. Some destinations in Central America are not going through a good time. This creates some discomfort and frightens the traveler to want to make business or pleasure trips. The Caribbean is living a better moment, but especially in its specific centers, since in some other points the tourist attention and the good service are not part of their culture. Some islands such as Jamaica or the Dominican Republic should change their laws to give more flexibility to skilled labor. These are certain situations that do not encourage development. Today Mexico has a greater hotel capacity than in South America, and its tourism, airport and communication infrastructure is much more robust than in the rest of the region. This is my perception and I believe that this type of situation gives Mexico the advantage as a brand and as a business, that is why we should not lose our way or be out of focus.