The hotel chain says that after more than seven years heading the federation and with wide professional experience in the public and private sectors, she will strengthen the company as deputy to Aurelio Vázquez, the current CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Benito was the federation's vice-president and succeeded Vázquez as president over two years ago. Vázquez, is one of two CEOs at Iberostar; the other is José Antonio González with responsibilities for the Americas.
Benito has thanked the hotel sector for having allowed her to develop her professional career. She says that she is now closing the cycle of one stage of that career and is opening a new one with a private company.
Her resignation has come as something of a surprise, and there is clearly a great deal that her successor will have to deal with. The tourist tax is one issue; the wage negotiation that is due to start this winter is another. Within the hotel industry there are concerns about the timing of the resignation. It has been left without someone to take it into the negotiation and to contend with the rise in the tax. Simon Pedro Barceló, president of the Balearic Hotel Chains Group, says that there are important issues for the hotel sector and that it is not a good time for her to be leaving.
The wage negotiation is a particularly sensitive matter, as it exposes the potential division within the hotel sector. The large hotel groups, such as Iberostar, are better placed to be able to accept what may turn out to be a notable pay increase (the government is applying as much pressure for this as the unions). Under the surface there have long been differences between the smaller and larger hotel groups. In the recent past they have been kept quiet, but they could be about to break the surface because of the wage negotiation.
Always close to Iberostar, Benito's appointment as president of the federation did arouse some debate. That was because she wasn't a hotelier as such; the federation had to amend its statutes to enable her to become president. In the Bulletin we have referred to her in the past as a hotel politician. She was in fact identified as a possible secretary of state for tourism when there was a reshuffle of government posts last year.
Her profile has been greater than previous presidents. Partly this has been because she has devoted herself solely to the role. Vázquez and other presidents before him combined the role with their business and management interests. Her time as president has also coincided with the current government and has therefore been a period of some conflict, such as with the tourist tax. Before she became president her name was well-known. This is not the case with the two current vice-presidents of the federation, both of whom are hoteliers.
The problem is that there isn't any obvious successor to her, not if the federation wants another executive president that is. While Benito will receive warm words praising her for her efforts, there will be those who are furious that she has chosen now to leave.