How to Be a Leader in Sustainability: An Interview with Meliá Hotels International
We speak with the COO of Meliá Hotels International - André P. Gerondeau on all things sustainability in the hospitality sector and adapting to the post-COVID world.
Meliá Hotels International was once again recognised as a leader in sustainability in the hotel industry by The S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA). What does this recognition mean for the group?
In 2019 and 2020, Meliá ranked first in the global hotel industry, and in 2021 it maintains its leadership in Europe and Spain and is the second-best worldwide. In particular, the company leads the world in the Governance and Economic dimension, once again achieving the top score among all the companies evaluated in terms of Climate Strategy.
We are very proud that Meliá is the brand that is leading the transformation towards a new sustainable and responsible hospitality model, thus increasing the contribution of the industry to society and helping protect the planet. It is also relevant for our Corporate reputation, as we think that being seen as a benchmark for sustainability in the world is getting more and more important for travellers and other stakeholders.
Tell us more about the steps that Meliá Hotels International is taking to drive sustainability?
Our “corporate purpose” says: “towards a sustainable future, from responsible tourism”, and I can proudly say that we are strongly focused on the three dimensions of sustainability (ESG): Environmental, Social and Governance; specifically, the S&P’s Global ranking acknowledges our company’s best practices in fields such as climate strategy (including decarbonisation and circular economy) and Social and Governance, for the improvements on human capital and the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion, and the transparency, rigour and ESG risk management.
With the aim of fully integrating ESG into our strategy and our operations, sustainability is one of the drivers of our strategic plan. It, therefore, includes many projects and initiatives in different dimensions. As the Chief Operating Officer, I am particularly thrilled by the opening of the 1st Net-Zero hotel in our portfolio, the future Le Blanc-a Gran Meliá Hotel, which we are building in Menorca – an island that, as you may know, is a Biosphere Reserve itself. The project aims to achieve total decarbonisation by reducing current CO2 emissions by 87% and offsetting the remaining 13% using renewable energies.
As the Chief Operating Officer, I am particularly thrilled by the opening of the 1st Net-Zero hotel in our portfolio, the future Le Blanc-a Gran Meliá Hotel, which we are building in Menorca – an island that, as you may know, is a Biosphere Reserve itself.
Besides this, we are very keen on combining technology and sustainability, and we have therefore launched initiatives such as the CO2PERATE program, to use Artificial Intelligence for the sake of energy efficiency, and we have been pioneers in using Blockchain technology to involve our customers in sustainable projects, with the “The Planet We Love” program, by which they can exchange their loyalty points for carbon credits.
How is your company evolving to compete in the challenging after-COVID tourism market?
I think that the hospitality sector will boom after the two years of the pandemic, starting in 2022, when the industry will pick up momentum for a long period of growth. Having said that, the changes produced in society and the travellers’ habits and expectations will make it critical for companies to adapt to the new ecosystem: more sustainable companies and destinations and digital immersion, not only regarding digital distribution, sales and marketing, but creating a digital or hybrid guest experience at the hotels as well. I also think that travellers will demand brands that have “soul” and strong links with destinations too.
To be ready for these post-COVID challenges, Meliá Hotels International has been working throughout the pandemic crisis in adapting our strategy, leveraging on its high degree of digitisation and its leadership in distribution, implementing a more digital and efficient operating model and strengthening our sustainable strategy & performance. Currently, we have launched our roadmap towards recovery, which also focus on more flexible growth, enhancing our management and franchise models and creating a value proposal to add independent hotels and small hotel chains to our portfolio, by providing not only a strong management system and distribution but also new branding solutions such as the “Affiliated by Melia” hotels or the “Meliá Collection”. Normally after major crises, there is a consolidation in the market, and we certainly believe that at this time there are many opportunities for alliances and for new forms of cooperation, through which independent hotels or small family groups can benefit from competitive advantages of the big chains like Meliá.
Meliá Hotels International’s expansion plans are very exciting – please tell us more about them.
After two years of slowdown in hotel openings, due to the general delay in the new hotel projects brought up by the COVID crisis, our company has announced more than a dozen new openings for this year, mostly in resort destinations, with a special focus on the Mediterranean area, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
Expansion will continue to be another of the company’s great strengths in 2022. Despite the pandemic, the company managed to sign agreements for 21 new hotels and open 13 hotels in 2021, including such iconic hotels as the new ME Barcelona. In 2022, it expects to continue to grow, including the mentioned Paradisus Playa Mujeres in Mexico, the Gran Melia Zhengzhou (its seventh hotel in China), the Gran Melia Nha Trang (Vietnam), the Melia Chiang Mai (Thailand), the Melia Trinidad Peninsula (Cuba), the Sol Marina and Blue Sea Beach Affiliated by Meliá (both in Crete in Greece), or the Hotel Las Arenas Affiliated by Meliá (Benalmádena, Spain), among others. “All of them – said Escarrer – will reinforce our leadership in the resort and leisure hotel segments in our key areas of growth, which are the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Asia Pacific”.
We have some extraordinary news regarding hotel transformation, too, like the arrival of the all-inclusive luxury brand Paradisus by Meliá, which up until now only operates in the Caribbean, to Spain, with the Paradisus Gran Canaria and Paradisus Salinas Lanzarote (both in the Canary Islands) as the result of the total transformation of the Meliá Tamarindos and Meliá Salinas, respectively. The company will also open the Paradisus Playa Mujeres, a major brand-new resort that will enhance the brand’s positioning in the Mexican Caribbean.
Also, as I mentioned above, the luxury brand Gran Meliá will open an extraordinary hotel in Menorca, the first five-star hotel on the island, that will be the first carbon-neutral hotel as well.
About Meliá Hotels International:
Founded in 1956 in Mallorca (Spain), Meliá Hotels International operates more than 380 hotels (portfolio and pipeline) throughout more than 40 countries, under the brands Gran Meliá Hotels & Resorts, Paradisus by Meliá, ME by Meliá, Meliá Hotels & Resorts, The Meliá Collection, INNSiDE by Meliá and Sol by Meliá, plus a wide portfolio of affiliated hotels under the “Affiliated by Meliá” network. The Group Is one of the leading companies in resort hotels worldwide, while also leveraging its experience to consolidate the growing segment of the leisure-inspired urban market. Its commitment to responsible tourism has led the Group to become the most sustainable hotel company in Spain and Europe, according to the last S&P Global Sustainability Yearbook 2022 (Silver Class distinction). It also has ranked seventh in the Wall Street Journal’s list of the 100 most sustainably managed companies in the world (and the leading travel company) and is the only Spanish travel company included in the list of “Europe’s Climate Leaders 2021” by Financial Times. Meliá Hotels International is also included in the IBEX 35 Spanish stock market.
About André P. Gerondeau:
André Philippe Gerondeau, as Chief Operating Officer in Meliá Hotels International, is the Global Head of hotel and vacation club operations, as well as overseeing the company´s portfolio of brands.
In his role, he is also responsible for the areas of Global Development, Marketing and Distribution. André is a member of the Senior Executive Team and has the privilege to lead a highly qualified team, one of the top performers in the industry.
Born in Japan, he has over 30 years of international experience in Latin America, the United States and Europe.