Last Monday, February 5, the Círculo Ecuestre held the colloquium Barcelona, towards the future of tourism with one of the most representative businessmen in the hotel sector: Gabriel Escarrer, president and CEO of Meliá Hotels International.

After the welcome from the president of the Círculo Ecuestre, Enrique Lacalle, the executive held a dialogue with the deputy director of La Vanguardia, Enric Sierra.

The colloquium began with the Hotel Torre Melina Gran Meliá, former Hotel Juan Carlos I, which opened its doors with Meliá in the month of January. Given the recent opening, Escarrer said that its recovery "has been a dream" in which "I will give my all to make it a reference urban holiday hotel in Barcelona, to honor the insignia it represents in this city". Likewise, he predicted that his company hopes to “turn over 50 million” with the iconic hotel complex.

The hotel businessman assessed that the tourism and hotel sector is going through a good time in which “the winds are blowing in favor”. In that sense, he expressed that “there are many requests that confirm that the prospects are positive, but there is still a lot to sell and enter. I am convinced that with team and strategy we will achieve it”. 

Within the framework of the dialogue, Sierra wanted to know Escarrer's opinion regarding the tourism situation in Barcelona, conditioned by the hotel moratorium. Given this, the president and CEO of Meliá Hotels International argued that his position is not to oppose vacation rental tourism, “but to oppose lack of control”. Along these lines, he called to “rethink the tourism model we want in Barcelona - alluding to the overgrowth of tourist rentals - but not indefinitely, since that would be going against the competition of the sector”.

Continuing with the tourism of the city of Barcelona, Escarrer valued that “sun and beach tourism is necessary, but not sufficient”, which is why he demanded “to look for quality tourism in 3, 4 and 5 stars, not only in the sector of luxury”. “Drunk and mass tourism embarrasses the entire sector”, he stated.

As a recipe for success, Escarrer called for betting on “public-private collaboration and a repositioning plan”, which is “what Spain needs”. Furthermore, he regretted that the administrations do not invest as much in tourism as would be necessary: “In tourism there is no PERTE, and that is a mistake, being the most affected sector after the pandemic”. “Tourism has been left in the hands of the autonomous communities and municipalities, with territories with very limited knowledge and a non-strategic economic distribution”, he added. Likewise, he congratulated the private sector “thanks to which we have made a lot of progress”.

Gabriel Escarrer said that “the change in the mayor's office will be noticed without a doubt, as well as in terms of security, which is fundamental for the tourist attraction”. The hotel expert expressed that “Barcelona has to lead a good image of safety”, giving North American tourism as an example, which “leaves a lot of waste and spend a lot of time in the city, so must feel safe”. Continuing with the local issue, he assessed that “some old city centers are losing their identity due to tourist gentrification”, which is why he assured that “the public sector has to take the first step and the hotelier must demonstrate the positive aspects that it can give to a city".

Responding to the eternal comparison between Barcelona and Madrid, the president and CEO of Meliá Hotels International defined them as “two very complementary cities”: “For the type of tourism we are looking for, it is very interesting to offer both. There is business and positioning for everyone”, he said.

The expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport was another of the topics that were put on the table during the colloquium at the Círculo Ecuestre. Gabriel Escarrer said that, “safeguarding the protection of the environment, it makes no sense to refuse to expand the Barcelona airport”. “Without transportation there is no tourism”, the hotelier emphasized.

Escarrer also gave his opinion on the cruise ship controversy. Given this, he assessed that "there must be greater planning, because if not it creates a feeling of overcrowding and loss of identity, and that is the tourism we do not want".

Continuing with the issues that occupy the Catalan capital, the hotelier gave his opinion on the imminent celebration of the Copa América, ensuring that "Barcelona is capable of hosting all attendees, an example of this is the Mobile World Congress". “Barcelona is going to leave the best taste in the mouth and the Copa América will be the gateway to great events”, he added.

To conclude his presentation, and after reassuring the public by stating that Meliá has no intention of limiting water in its hotels, but rather "carrying out awareness-raising work through a good signage strategy", Gabriel Escarrer predicted good results for the company, that will present results during this beginning of the year: “Meliá has the know-how of selling experiences. We propose value and innovation, something that is in our DNA. For this reason, we can assure that between 2024 and 2025 we will recover pre-covid ratios”.