Industry insight18 January 2022
Turning a family business into a hospitality empire is no mean feat. CEO and heir of Meliá Hotels International, Gabriel Escarrer Jaume explains the importance of passion in the hotel industry, and why preserving family values is critical to the company’s success.
What was your earliest ambition?
When I was a child I wanted to be a sailor but then I started visiting some of our hotels with my father on the weekends and I fell in love with the hospitality industry. So as a young man, all I ever really wanted to be was a hotelier.
Private school or state school? University or straight into work?
I received a bachelor’s in the Science of Business Administration in Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, before starting to work at Salomon Smith Barney in New York. Only after years of training did I join the family company.
What aspect of the hospitality industry has changed the most since you entered the industry?
I think that digitalisation has been the main driver of change, leading to a strong evolution of marketing, while preserving and enhancing the customer experience.
Which person, living or dead, most inspires you?
Without any doubt, my father – the founder of our company – who started the business without any resources and created a giant hotel group thanks to his initiative, tenacity and hard work. He always remains true to his philosophy and his principles.
What skill do you need to be successful in the hospitality business?
I would say that in our business, passion and service are the main attributes needed for success.
Ambition or talent: which matters more?
It is absolutely key to train and enhance our talent capacities, but healthy ambition is also necessary to function and grow in such a competitive world.
Where is the best hotel/resort you have ever been to?
It’s difficult for me to choose, but I would probably say the Gran Melia Rome Villa Agrippina, as it’s close to the Vatican City and leans over the Tiber river. I’d say it’s my favourite.
How physically fit are you?
Quite fit actually, because as a believer of “mens sana in corpore sano”, which means “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. I try to exercise every morning.
In what place are you happiest?
On a boat sailing in the Mediterranean.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
I wouldn’t call it extravagance, but I am very proud of a small wooden fishing boat, typical of the Balearic Islands, that I own.
What is your mantra?
My mantra would be “the customer comes first”, and I ask my team to always cultivate the loyalty of our customers.
If your 21-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
I think he would be extremely satisfied with the lovely family I have built, and he would also be happy that we have managed to maintain the strong family character of our company.