On our last visit to Dubai, not only did we have the opportunity to visit the desert city and business centre more in-depth, but we also got to meet Jamal Satli Iglesias, the chairman of BlueBay Hotels, one of the leading Spanish hotel chains when it comes to international expansion and innovation. We spent a morning at the BlueBay offices in the United Arab Emirates with one of the most forward-thinking minds in the tourism sector and got to see up close how a young management team are working on a game-changing concept to keep up with new market demands.
LOOKOUT: At a professional level, your business has grown a lot in recent years and positioned itself in key markets. Is the company experiencing its best moment?
JAMAL SATLI IGLESIAS: Regarding expansion, I would say yes, but we still need to consolidate our position. Ours is a long term project. The last five years have been especially momentous in terms of growth and expansion in key markets like Spain, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa but the coming years will be decisive for us to consolidate our position, grow and work on the quality of the product.
LK: Investments from Spanish companies investing in the international market have skyrocketed. Do you think this will continue?
JSI: I’m convinced the trend in investing in international markets will continue to rise. Although many economic studies and data are showing that domestic consumption is evolving and reaching figures, we saw before the crisis. A company that wishes to carry on growing and continue with an expansion policy must always keep a watchful eye on the international market. Exports have saved many of them from complicated situations or even bankruptcy, so the smart thing is to have one of the pillars of the company determined by the activity and the business generated in the international market. Investment is essential of we want to see results in the medium and long term.
LK: What role does tourism play in a country’s economy?
JSI: Beyond a shadow of a doubt, tourism today is a decisive driving force for economic and social development, it creates jobs and wealth for its pulling power on other productive activities. The important role tourism plays is increasing, this is evident from the World Tourism Organisation’s projections, which predict an increase in global tourism between 5% and 7% per year, and show estimates that in 2020 we will see 1600 million tourists compared to the 760 million we have today. Tourism plays a key role in Spain’s economy, representing 11% of the GDP and around 12% of employment.
LK: Do you believe innovation and tourism must go hand in hand?
JSI: Tourism development must go hand-in-hand with new trends. Nowadays, innovation has become a crucial factor for the success of businesses, and consequently, it’s a key factor for growth in the economies of each country. Innovation is a concept used to respond to consumers’ demands, market requirements and global competition within the services sector and other sectors of the economy.
LK: With the Internet, social networks, 3D and 360o experiences, how have tourism and tourists changed in recent years?
JSI: In 21st century tourism, certain factors play a predominant role in the sector that didn’t exist a few decades ago. The increase in collaborative or social tourism is being felt, it’s escalating, changing people’s travelling habits, and bringing tourism to be considered as a way of life.
In this regard, BlueBay Hotels has known how to adapt to new market demands, providing information online about destinations and services on its website, tourist information blog, and social networks. It’s vital for us to have to have a direct line of communication with our customers and a 100% response rate on all channels.
LK: Is it safe to say that by BlueBay hiring Jimmy Pons, an expert in tourism innovation, as the director of marketing, innovation, quality and product development, part of the chain’s strategic plan is committed to adapting to 2.0 tourism?
JSI: Our overriding goal is the use of advanced technology to target our customers, our business partners and create marketing strategies, customer allegiance and new processes to improve our offering. This year, with Jimmy Pons joining the team, we are strengthening a department that is crucial for the company to achieve its strategic goals. The decisive commitment by BlueBay Hotels to reinforce and modernise this area is part of the ambitious expansion plan that has led to the incorporation of more than a dozen new establishments in destinations like Madrid, France, Lebanon, Jordan, Luxembourg, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Tunisia and Morocco.
LK: What are tourists looking for nowadays?
JSI: 21st-century tourists are seeking unique experiences, among the services offered by some of the group’s hotels we have the temescal experience in Riviera Maya or the “Revivir” luxury oriental spa, to name just a few. Also, families are now searching for idyllic destinations to share with their children. BlueBay has hotels in the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East specially geared towards family tourism offering leisure activities and entertainment for all ages, but it also has adult only hotels for those in search of a romantic getaway. At BlueBay, we adapt to each segment by offering a targetted response tailored to each need.