Miguel Villarroya (CEO of Spring Hotels): “The revival of British tourism will be the key to recovery in Tenerife.”
With all hotels closed by Government Decree, Miguel Villarroya, the CEO of Spring Hotels, has given his views about how to re-activate the local economy and where the hotel chain stands.
– How do you think the hotel sector will evolve? “There are many theories, but very few certainties about the evolution of tourism in general. We are facing a completely new situation, with no references throughout the world, that has affected us globally, making development completely unpredictable.
There are many factors that will determine the evolution, starting with the most important one, which is the health factor. Until the pandemic is controlled, it is evident that tourism will not begin its reactivation. Once the health problem is overcome, other factors enter, such as the financial health of tour operators and airlines, the opening of airspace or the fear of travelling. And we cannot forget economic stability; if people lose their jobs we can’t expect them to go on holiday.
However, holidays are an almost mandatory investment for many families; and the market, both local and national and international, is showing that it wants to enjoy them from the second half of the year, as we see in inquiries and reservations already. We anticipate that the local and national market will be the first to reactivate, although for Tenerife tourism the one that will make the difference is the international one, especially English. In any case, until we can guarantee health security on the part of the client and destination, neither hoteliers nor guests will begin the reactivation.”
– Do you have an optimistic vision? “Yes, it is something that characterizes us and that defines our company a lot. We know that the problem is there, we are aware of the drama caused by the situation, but we also think that if we stay crying it will be very difficult to overcome this bump. We have already done it on other occasions, for example in the Thomas Cook crisis, when we decided to launch our own flight purchase platform, in order to discount flights and thus help those affected, alleviating the consequences of the closure of the tour operator.
As entrepreneurs, now more than ever we have the responsibility to analyze and propose measures that allow us to support and manage this difficult moment of total economic halt. And following the thread of the recent declarations of the Círculo de Empresarios del Sur de Tenerife, we agree that we should not give up on the season, let’s start with the local market and reactivate tourism at least internally.”
– Let’s talk about those measures. What do we go forward with? “Although it is a simple claim, it is obvious that we need all the support of the Administration, starting with the intermediation of the Government of the Canary Islands in front of the tour operators, so that they can expedite the pending payments, which the employers have already requested. Promotion is also essential, it would seem that at this moment it would not make sense, but now more than ever it is when the brands do it, it is today when we must be closer to our customers. Claiming the suitability of the Canary Islands as a tourist destination for any market that is willing to travel when conditions are right, is where the public-private partnership must be a reality. At this time the municipalities that host the tourist fabric play a very important role, many of them have a high surplus and it would be very helpful if they also used it to reduce those municipal taxes such as IBI, IAE, basura, etc.
Despite the fall of some future-looking businesses, we are considering investments during this break to improve the destination’s competitiveness. For this, from the business associations we have asked local institutions to provide licenses and eliminate fees for them, to undertake hotel reforms taking advantage of the circumstances and thus re-open with a better offer for the client.
Along these lines, and with a very good disposition, the Arona Town Council has opened a digital channel of communication in which an interesting dialogue is being generated with businesses, where they are being informed of the current situation, and the evolution of licenses in progress. Maybe it is not a solution in itself but it is certainly a good way to stay in touch and share visions that enrich us all.
On the other hand, maintaining and recovering employment is key to the evolution of our society, and for this the Government is taking over 75% of the taxes of the companies affected during the State of Alarm. However, we must be aware that the end of the Alarm State may mean the beginning of the recovery of some sectors, but companies such as hotels will need months to recover minimally, which is why we consider a somewhat poor measure for the magnitude of the problem. It is more than evident that ERTE must be lengthened for a greater cause, extending their duration by at least 6 months to have a security framework in order to protect employment. That does not mean that the hotels will be closed until then, if the sanitary security conditions are in place before, we will be more than happy to reverse the Regulatory Records.”
– You also propose internal measures. “For our sector, this crisis is especially hard because our activity is completely stopped for the first time in history. But these moments also represent an opportunity to carry out actions for which it is difficult to find time in normal circumstances. For example, we are taking advantage of our Spring University so that our team can be trained during these months, with basic courses in hospitality and specific to each position, language courses created for each category and corporate training. That way, when the hotels reopen, we will be more trained and with greater capacity to continue creating the quality tourism we want for our island. ”
– Have you already thought about the measures to implement before reopening? “The WHO has already determined some very general measures for hotel establishments, but we are deepening these measures day by day and reinforcing them, waiting to know the details that the authorities determine. For the reopening we need to equip ourselves with all the sanitary and hygienic safety means required by the law against Covid-19, reinforcing and adapting our existing Health & Safety processes to the required disinfection methods. In this sense, we believe that Europe must establish the control system and protocols, so that all interest groups (issuing markets, agencies, tour operators, airlines and destinations) speak the same language.”
However, we can predict the trend and importance of health security in the industry and we must prepare ourselves internally to be able to reopen with a safe proposal for a vacation experience. Our Contactless policy focuses on measures such as buffets tailored to individual portions, elimination of crowds at reception facilitating online pre-check-in, promotion of call centers and digital information panels for the client, opening of doors via App, limitation of common areas, disinfection with ultraviolet lamps … All these measures are from the inside out, with the aim of creating, as a priority, a concept of “a safe hotel in a safe destination”. To do this, we will carry out regular checks on all employees to ensure safety. All this without losing our final objective, which is to offer quality holidays, with exceptional service and full customer satisfaction. ”
– Is the company ready for this new way of working? “As Spring Hotels we have been betting on digitization for years, which is a great advantage at the moment. Our mission now is to complete the total digitization in all processes, a project that is already underway. We are aware that there is a customer segment that rejects overly advanced technology, sometimes seen as unhuman, and this is a good opportunity to show you that technology can also bring us closer together. It is time to welcome the “no contact” or “contactless” universe in which we will live for an indefinite time.”
– We are talking about creating a safe destination, but how do we ensure that the threat does not enter through tourists? “The same guarantees that our destination offers are the same ones that we are going to demand from our clients, and it will take the commitment of both airlines, tour operators and AENA to carry out tests on travellers that ensure a Covid-free environment. Due to the island status and the limited access channels, we have the opportunity to be the first to create a “safe destination” that allows tourists to travel without fear. ” Courtesy of Spring Hotels and Diario De Avisos
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