Spain's Room Mate Hotels has been driving the boutique concept since its inception in 2005. Twelve years later it continues to expand globally, with hotels and an apartment-living concept in Europe and North America. And while the brand was founded in urban locations, as you'll read below, it's now looking to find opportunities in resort and other vacation markets, particularly in the Med.
At the Mediterranean Resort and Hotel Real Estate Forum (MR&H), Víctor Fernández Cintrano, the CEO of Room Mate, a position he has held since 2015, will join a panel focusing on new hospitality concepts, including hostels and apartment hotels, and the future of hospitality in the Med.
Ahead of the conference, we caught up with Fernández to get a better understanding of his brand and it's future within the lens of Europe and the Mediterranean.
1. What brought you to the world of hospitality and to Room Mate hotels?
In the case of hospitality (or 'Happytality,' as we like to call it), what calls the most attention to me is its dynamism and the possibility of being in permanent contact with people. In the case of Room Mate, I fell in love with it because it is a brilliant and disruptive company, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit that I identify with. Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to design and manage its growth and it represented a spectacular challenge.
2. What is the story behind Room Mate Hotels?
We consider Room Mate Hotels to be more than an international hotel chain. It is a philosophy based on the idea that the best way of traveling is visiting friends; thus, our hotels—from Óscar and Aitana, to Grace or Emir—are some of our many friends waiting for you around the world. We have seeked to develop the concept of affordable luxury and believe that innovation, great design, comfort and unique locations are not incompatible with reasonable pricing. We are also nonconformists and are always questioning ourselves. Some of this includes the WiMate device (free WiFi throughout the city) and by offering breakfast until 12 PM.
3. What is the company’s position in the Mediterranean and what are your priorities for the year(s) to come?
Our priorities are focused on expanding the Room Mate Hotels concept, which is now concentrated in urban locations, to the vacation and resort market. Thus, we are more than ever interested in the Mediterranean, particularly in Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal.
4. How do you think the hospitality market has changed in Europe and/or the Mediterranean in the last year? Which markets are most promising and which are less interesting now?
In the Mediterranean, there are opposing forces. On the one hand, the instability of some countries has led tourists to consider them as “risk” locations. On the other hand, some countries are taking advantage of this situation, as travelers are preferring them as their destination. Overall, in the best sense, Europe is becoming a “theme park” and if we manage it well, it can be a great opportunity for the continent. Regarding markets, Portugal is one of the most-promising countries. Both rural and urban tourism are booming in the country right now. Furthermore, the Mediterranean islands are attracting a lot of people and Spain is consolidating more and more as a tourism leader in the Mediterranean.
5. What travel trends have you identified as the most influential, and how are they affecting your company’s products?
People are increasingly organizing their trips and the guest is savvier and travels more compared to some years ago. It affects us because our business model is based on people. In that sense, we are working on a customer-relations model based on effective listening, so we can adapt our culture and way of working to what we hear from people and the context. Another clear trend is the sharing economy. In the case of the tourism industry, the apartment rental companies have begun to normalize as a way of accommodation. We try to respond to this need with Be Mate, which combines the freedom of an apartment rental with the humanization, safety and services of a hotel. Travelers and apartment owners are learning very fast and they are realizing that not everything is acceptable.
6. What is the main message you would like to share with the audience at MR&H?
Room Mate is a philosophy of customer experience, a different way of understanding business that was born out of nonconformity, of the desire to challenge and question us permanently. We want to show the world that a model based on humanization and happiness is more profitable.
The Mediterranean Resort and Hotel Real Estate Forum (MR&H) is October 16-18 in Tarragona, Spain. For more information and to register, visit www.mrandh.com.