'Bleisure' travelers boost Spain's hotel profits

Melia and Ctrip are working together in marketing, technology and service to meet the demands of Chinese tourists.
Gran Melia Fenix

“Bleisure” travelers—those who add on a personal vacation to a business trip—are boosting hotel profits in the Mediterranean, underlining the growing diversity of the region’s market as it moves away from the traditional “sun-and-sand” visit and looks towards corporate travelers who combine business with leisure. 

Meliá has reported strong results entering the critical summer season, leaning on its Mediterranean business.

“The first half of 2017 reveals a solid evolution both in the level of income and RevPAR, and the excellent position gained in the emerging bleisure segment,” Gabriel Escarrer, CEO, Meliá Hotels International, said.

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Meliá was not the only group in the region to look to bleisure, with NH Hotels Group blogging on the trend earlier this year, addressing event organizers with the comment that “there’s a growing number of business travelers who want to take advantage of their stay to visit museums or other points of interest in the city as well as to add some leisure and relaxation. Offer your guests a complete 360 experience so that, in addition to enjoying your event, they take advantage of the trip to see the sites and head home which double the learning experience.”

Both NH and Meliá have been focusing on their urban hotels as the country’s economy has recovered and geo-political concerns in the region have drawn visitors to the safety of Spain. Meliá’s first half results saw RevPAR at its city properties rise by 18 percent on the year, against a 13.4-percent increase at its resorts. 

This has been aided by its B2B digital strategy, aimed at the MICE segment, and the new relationship platform with B2B professionals, MeliaPro, where it increased its sales by 20 percent.

At NH, the group described Spain as having performed “excellently throughout the first half, boosted by business dynamism in cities such as Madrid and Barcelona”, where revenue rose by 12.5 percent and 11.1 percent respectively, with the secondary cities showing an increase of 10.2 percent.

Spain Means Business

Business travel is set to increase in Spain, according to the Global Business Travel Association, which looked ahead at the end of last year to comment: “Just a couple years ago, Spain’s business travel market was one of the most troubled markets on the European continent, but is now expected to experience one of the highest growth rates, second only to Germany”.

The GBTA forecast that total business spending in Spain would increase by 5.8 percent to reach $22 billion this year, led by domestic business travel, which is expected to rise by 5.7 percent to $17.4 billion while international corporate visitors are likely to grow by 6.3 percent to $4.5 billion. Last year business travel spend rose by 7.2 percent to $20.8 billion.

A GBTA Foundation study reported that 45 percent of business travelers viewed terrorism as the greatest safety risk they face on the road, outranking the next greatest concern—street crime—which only troubled 15 percent.

Spain has not suffered from the terror attacks that have blighted the markets around it and operators Meliá and NH have made hay which the sun shines, overhauling their businesses and repositioning themselves towards the luxury and corporate markets, a strategy Meliá said was attracting “higher segments and new sources of income.” Keeping those sources of income for an extra day or two after a conference can only keep interest from visitors and investors buoyant. 

Katherine Doggrell is an editor at Hotel Analyst, the U.K.-based news analysis service for hotel investors.

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