MR&H speaker series: WATG's Muriel Muirden talks revitalization, repositioning and rethinking

At the upcoming Mediterranean Resort & Hotel Real Estate Forum, running Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos in Barcelona, Muriel Muirden, EVP & MD of strategy at WATG, will be part of a panel on “Developing and managing mixed-use resorts: models, strategies & opportunities” on Thursday, Dec. 1.

WATG is primarily a design firm specializing in the hospitality and leisure sectors. Muirden heads up the in-house strategic consulting service, and her team works with developers and funders to "evolve new concepts, to monitor new trends and then to run financial assessments aimed at maximizing project returns."

Prior to the conference, Muirden discussed the biggest trends in the Mediterranean hospitality market, the best opportunities for development and the region's biggest challenges. 

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1) What would you say are the three major trends in hospitality in the Mediterranean right now? 

Muirden: Revitalization, repositioning and radical rethinking! I think there is a lot of innovative thought going into changing the fortunes of many resort destinations in Europe.

2) Which Mediterranean markets offer the best opportunities for new developments or redevelopments and why? 

Muirden: I am excited about Spain and Greece—both [are] ripe for dynamic refurbishments and revitalization of tired hotel stock. I also see potential in Croatia for new build—such a fantastic place, but so little new inventory to tempt new markets down there.

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3) What are the main challenges facing the hospitality sector in the Mediterranean? 

Muirden: Seasonality is an ongoing challenge. Airlift to amazing destinations in the Med and Adriatic grinds to a halt from October to April—this creates challenging hotel economics.

4) How is your company responding to these challenges? 

Muirden: We are working with developers to design and amenitize hotels that will nudge the traditional seasonality patterns and push seven-month seasons to nine-month seasons and, hopefully, over time help to open up 12-month operations.

5) Which companies/brands do you think are being particularly dynamic or innovative in the Mediterranean? What makes them stand out from the rest?

Muirden: I think there are a lot of exciting players out there. I commend Palladium for their assertive and bold revitalization of key properties in Ibiza—I think Hard Rock is a triumph. I am also an admirer of Jadranka in Croatia—they have had an ongoing program of hotel and amenity renovation in Cikat on the island of Losinj and have brought the resort back to life with the quality of the refurbishment work and all with an innovative twist—fabulous lighting, edible landscape, quirky interior design touches. A wonderful job.   

6) What do you look forward to most at MR&H this year? 

Muirden: Catching up with old friends and clients…and hearing some feel-good stories.

The Mediterranean Resort & Hotel Real Estate Forum will be held at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos, in Barcelona, Nov. 30-Dec. 2. For more information on the agenda and speakers, and to register, visit www.mrandh.com.

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