Gabriel Escarrer Jaume Chief Excecutive of Melia Hotels International. | archives

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The tourism sector has always evolved. It has been at the mercy of social and economic changes and has always echoed, for its sheer survival, travellers’ latest trends. But the pace of this evolution undoubtedly accelerated because of the pandemic. This forced us to reset and to question everything as a principle of policy. Moreover, it made us prepare for and adapt to the post-Covid environment, one that would be much harder and more demanding.

The global tragedy of the pandemic, which practically paralysed the tourism sector across the world, also taught us a great deal. It prompted us to transform ourselves in being more digital, sustainable and resilient so as to face the tougher post-Covid environment, now aggravated by the energy crisis of recent months.

In this regard, one of the great vectors of change in the tourism industry is digitalisation. This has become a key lever for businesses’ competitiveness, while it is increasingly in demand as part of the traveller’s own experience.

Eighty per cent of companies admit to having accelerated their digitalisation processes as a consequence of Covid. Creating what is now referred to as “digital advantage” is present in the strategic plans of the main hotel companies worldwide.

In the case of our company, Meliá Hotels International, I can assure you that our advanced degree of digitalisation was fundamental in being able to resist almost two years of the pandemic. During the crossing of that desert, our own website, Melia.com, channelled up to 60% of our sales, while our Melia Rewards loyalty programme, with a base of almost 14 million loyal customers, accounted for almost 90% of our income.

We were sure that the “day-after” tourism would be more digital, and we were right. Today, we can say that the knowledge of our customers and the flexibility provided by our channels, together with revision of all our processes and our more digital and efficient model of operations, have allowed us to emerge stronger and to be able to face the current complex situation with greater guarantees.
Sustainability is the other key vector of the transformation of our industry. Society’s awareness of this has also accelerated because of Covid, and especially when it comes to travel. For example and according to Statista, 62% of Britons say that the threat of climate change has had an impact on their travel behaviour.

Companies and destinations are adapting to this trend, one that is fortunately here to stay and which we at Meliá have been very aware of over the past two decades. Evidence of this comes from the prestigious Corporate Sustainability Assessment. Prepared by Standard & Poor’s Global, this recognises us as the Most Sustainable Hotel Company in Spain and Europe and the second most sustainable worldwide.

The fundamentals of tourism remain solid. Even a pandemic that has paralysed travel for almost two years has not affected the desire to travel, as evidenced by the strong, resurgent demand following the lifting of mobility restrictions. In a special way, our Balearic Islands remain one of the destinations that are fundamentally preferred by Europeans and have even emerged as a refuge-destination because of the uncertainty caused by the war crisis in Ukraine.

We are on the verge of an excellent year for tourism, but Covid has made us see that we must consolidate our strengths. For this, we need public-private collaboration more than ever. And through this, we must capitalise on the great opportunity presented by the European Union’s Next Generation Funds in transforming our tourism model. The new Tourism Law in the Balearics, which shares these objectives, should help us achieve this.

All of us, companies and public administrations responsible for destinations, have before us the gigantic challenge of advancing towards a more sustainable, a more digital and a more efficient model. For this reason, I welcome the new, more digital stage of the Majorca Daily Bulletin, which will help us to consolidate this model and pass it on to all of your readers in the UK.