Chief Commercial Officer of NH Hotel Group since February 2013, Rufino Pérez was previously Managing Director Business Unit Spain, Portugal & Andorra. He started his hotel career with Hesperia Hoteles, now part of NH, as head of internal audit, director of Organization and Systems and director of Operations. Then he became Commercial operations for NH in Spain and Portugal. Within the organization, he is also responsible for the new brand, Nhow.
Actually, one of the key characteristics of the brand is inclusiveness: we are not excluding any kind of client and not addressing specifically the "younger generations". The aim is to offer an unconventional experience to any client who could appreciate it. We address curious clients, regardless of their age, to stimulate their imagination.
Insisting on the "sense of wow", the architectural experience, the exceptional location.... Don't you create impossible conditions for your developers to rapidly extend the network?
It's true that in terms of architectural experience we are aiming at a "Wow" effect. So far, the hotels in operation or in development bear the signature of famous architects whether it is Kem Koolhaas in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Matteo Thun in Milan, Tchoban Voss in Berlin or Norman Foster in London. It is part of the DNA of the brand. But it is not really a problem in terms of development. When you build a hotel or you convert an existing building in that particular Lifestyle segment, meaning the upper upscale segment, you cannot just copy/paste the design of an existing property. Especially because another important characteristic of the brand is the connection to the city and the fact that you should have a sense of the destination once you arrive in the lobby. For development it is just a question of having all these elements in place when launching a new project.
Do you have a set goal in terms of critical mass in a few years?
The development of the Nhow is part of the 24 initiatives included in the 5-year strategic plan. On top of the three hotels in operation, the plan targets reaching 12 properties by the end of the year 2018. Three more have been already signed, one in London, one in Amsterdam at the RAI Center which will be the largest hotel in the whole of the Benelux, and the third one in Santiago, Chile. Obviously the brand doesn't target any destination but concentrates on those with an international profile.
Is Nhow a European concept or could it apply to other non-European destinations?
The concept is really international. Beside Europe, we intend to develop it in the Americas, both North and South as is demonstrated by the signing in Chile.
Do you need to develop a theme for each property as you did for the first ones, around Art, Architecture or Fashion?
More than a theme we want to establish a link with the city. In the case of Milan, a city renowned for fashion designers, the link was obvious. The location itself is linked to that, in the neighbourhood where most of the design studios are. Moreover, we decided to change the furniture in the lobby every three months to showcase the latest trends in design. We will have the same approach for each destination, selecting the most relevant link to the city.
Could the brand apply for conversion of existing buildings, under what conditions?
In terms of development, we are very opportunistic, looking at every possibility. In some cases, we will transform existing buildings, as we did in Milan with a former electric power plant. In London and Amsterdam, we develop new properties in new areas of the city.
How do you intend to finance development? Are you only engaged in an asset light strategy?
There is no single answer as we are pretty flexible now. We can sign either lease or management contracts. We might invest in FF&E or we might help the developer with some key money. At the end, if the project is interesting, we'll find a way to make it work.
How do investors react to a new brand that has only three properties in operation?
They like the fact that the brand, because of its very nature, has strong potential. First because the lifestyle segment is continuously growing and second because of our specific approach to the segment. We are implementing the Experience approach, not only in the Nhow brand, but in all of the NH Hotel Group's brands. This will trigger the loyalty of our clients and the reputation of the properties. The design is one thing, but behind it there are strong operational practices to generate revenues and strong GOP margins for the owners. Recent signatures with strong developers and institutional investors are the confirmation that the brand appeals to everybody for its great potential and current performance of existing hotels.
Do you see your approach as a response to the development of the sharing economy?
We always considered that the sharing economy concept is based on a contradiction in terms. If you share your home you do not charge your guests. So it is actually a business, a competition for the tourist industry with package deals. Therefore we are asking for the establishment of fair rules of competition. Having said that, every new competition is challenging for us and we accept the challenge.
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