Business Monday

Meliá Hotels International is expanding its brands in the Americas

Alvaro Tejeda, Meliá Hotels International regional vice president for the Americas, at the Americas headquarters on Brickell Avenue in Miami on April 22, 2015.
Alvaro Tejeda, Meliá Hotels International regional vice president for the Americas, at the Americas headquarters on Brickell Avenue in Miami on April 22, 2015. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Meliá Hotels International, the Spanish hotel and resort group operating in 40 countries, is growing rapidly in the Americas as part of an ambitious international expansion plan.

“We have several new projects in the region, including properties in the English-speaking Caribbean, Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru and the United States,” said Alvaro Tejeda, MHI’s Miami-based regional vice president for the Americas.

In the United States, MHI already has the Meliá Orlando Suite Hotel at Celebration and plans to open the ME Miami (129 rooms) and the Meliá Costa Hollywood Beach Resort on Hollywood’s beach (304 condominium and hotel units), both at the end of this year.

MHI owns and manages some of its properties but also manages properties owned by partners and leases facilities to operate under one of its brands. Under the ownership of CGI Merchant Group, the ME Miami is taking over the location of the Casa Moderna Hotel on Biscayne Boulevard. Liberty Grande LLC is developing the new project in Hollywood.

In Manhattan, the chain is planning to open an Innside by Meliá (313 rooms) in 2016. Innside is a business and leisure brand that originated in Germany, while ME by Meliá is a new, contemporary brand for urban and resort destinations.

Other MHI brands are Gran Meliá, Meliá Hotels and Resorts, Paradisus Resorts, Tryp by Wyndham and Sol Hotels.

MHI, whose brands are well-known in Europe and Latin America, previously owned and operated its hotels but has changed its policy.

“The strategy set by MHI in 2013 was to move away from ownership toward an asset-light company,” said Tejeda, who came to Miami in 2009 to manage the Americas region. This includes the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. “We continue to shift the company’s profile, and 99 percent of the hotels in the pipeline are under management or lease agreements.”

Born in Chile, Tejeda joined the company more than 25 years ago. He obtained his degree in hotel business administration at the Heidelberg Hotel Management School in Germany and speaks Spanish, English, German and Portuguese.

MHI’s Miami regional office was originally set up in 1994 and moved to its current location — 800 Brickell Ave. — in 2003.

Meliá currently has 22 properties in the region, with more on the way. All MHI operations and personnel in the Americas are managed by the Miami-based Sol Group Corp., an indirect subsidiary of Meliá .

Sol Group provides services such as hotel operations, finance, human resources, sales, IT and other functions to owners and operators of MHI properties. The Sol Group has more than 10,000 employees at MHI hotels and resorts in the region, and the total is expected to rise to 12,000 as new properties are added.

In the U.S., Sol Group has 60 employees, 53 of whom are based in Miami.

Meliá is adding a mix of full-service and limited-service hotels in the region to meet the demand in different markets. In Latin America, for example, where the group has operated for decades, the expansion of business and tourist travelers in provincial cities has opened up new opportunities.

“We’ve seen a strong resurgence of limited-service hotels, offering a no-frills approach with low operating costs and competitive rates,” Tejeda said. “We have also seen an encouraging trend in mixed-use developments in key gateway cities like New York and Miami, where we have multiple projects under development.”

“The region’s hottest markets include Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, where the company has more than 3,000 rooms,” Tejeda said.

Other important markets are Cancún and Playa del Carmen in Mexico, as well as Chile, Colombia and Nassau in the Bahamas.

Meliá works in a very crowded market, with competitors that include all the major hospitality chains, as well as local and regional hotels. But Tejeda says MHI has at least three advantages.

First, MHI is a publicly traded company, but most shares are controlled by the Escarrer family. “This means we have the warmth and vision of a family business while retaining the rigor and discipline of a public corporation,” he said.

In addition, the company has more resort locations than urban locations, which is unusual in the industry. This makes MHI attractive for future resort developers and to consumers looking for exciting leisure destinations. And MHI has experience as a hotel owner and operator, which differs from most of the company’s competitors, who have little or no real estate holdings. This experience gives the company a broader vision of the business.

MHI is performing well in the Americas, according to the company. “The outlook for 2015 is very strong, and we are expecting double-digit growth in revenue per available room,” Tejeda said.

“We expect total revenue in the region to reach more than $600 million, representing an 18 percent increase over last year.”

MHI is advancing several strategic priorities in the Americas. These include expanding the upscale and luxury resort brands in the Caribbean, establishing a sound foothold in U.S. gateway cities, exploring opportunities for its Sol Beach House and related brands and accelerating growth in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia.

Said Tejeda: “We see exciting opportunities throughout the region.”

Meliá Hotels International S. A.

Business: Based in Spain, Meliá Hotels International (MHI) is one of the world’s leading hotel companies, operating 365 hotels and resorts in 40 countries. Formerly called Sol Meliá , MHI operates under several brands: Gran Meliá, Meliá Hotels and Resorts, Paradisus Resorts, ME by Meliá, Innside by Meliá, Tryp by Wyndham and Sol Hotels. In Miami, an indirect subsidiary of Meliá called the Sol Group Corp. provides services for MHI properties in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, managing all operations and personnel.

Company background: In 1956, Gabriel Escarrer Juliá opened his first hotel in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and later expanded throughout the country. In 1987, he bought the Meliá hotels chain, which became the company’s main brand.

World headquarters: Palma de Mallorca.

Americas headquarters: 800 Brickell Ave., Miami.

Senior management: Gabriel Escarrer Juliá, chairman of the board; Gabriel Escarrer Jaume, vice chairman and CEO.

Americas leadership: Alvaro Tejeda Schroeder, regional vice president for the Americas.

Employees: MHI employs about 38,000 worldwide. In the Americas region, more than 10,000 people are employed at Meliá hotels and resorts by the Sol Group; there are 53 at the Miami office and seven in other parts of the United States.

Ownership: Publicly traded on the Madrid stock exchange. The Escarrer family holds a majority of shares.

Websites: www.meliahotelsinternational.com and www.melia.com

Source: Meliá Hotels International

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