Interview with Joan Gaspart Solves, President and CEO of Husa Hoteles: "The time has come for international development"

4 min reading time

Published on 06/04/05 - Updated on 17/03/22

In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the group Husa may be seen entering a new era.With over 160 hotels, the Spanish group is solidly positioned on its domestic market… a market that has an overcapacity and in which the group has reached critical mass.The future of Husa now lies in developing in countries bordering on Spain.

HTR Magazine: Spain’s large cities such as Madrid and Barcelona suffer from over-capacity. What is your reaction to this? _ Joan Gaspart Solves:

For the moment, business tourism, our core activity, is not growing at the same rate as the supply. To confront this situation, we are carefully regulating our spending and offering our clients the best rates. But it is necessary to be cool-headed about this and not lower prices excessively. Otherwise, it can become very difficult to return to acceptable levels.HTR: The group Husa is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. What is your approach to the future? _ J.G.S: In 75 years of business we have shifted from luxury tourism for the wealthy to tourism that anyone can afford. Tourism is no longer unique, it has become a commonplace. The economic situation has changed radically. And so has technology. Tourism still has a wide growth margin. We are working to make Husa an actor on a European scale, an important tourism chain in Europe. We should be reactive and ready to adapt to the unknown.HTR: What are the causes of this overabundance? When should it come to an end? _ J.G.S: This abundance of hotels is the normal result of the very strong economic growth that Spain has been experiencing. This situation is thus logical. A lot of construction companies have invested in the hotel industry because there were very good deals to be made. With the growth of the economy, this over-capacity should be reabsorbed in 4 to 5 years. Spain is getting ready to host major events that are very important for our country. The international exhibition in Saragossa in 2008 and, I hope, the Olympics in 2012 in Madrid, will provide fine growth opportunities for the occupancy of our properties. While the games might last only twenty or so days, it is an excellent opportunity for marketing the city. It’s free advertising for the city before and after this world event.HTR: Like France and Italy, Spain had a difficult summer. Does summer 2004 mark the end of a pattern? _ J.G.S: Mass tourism is not dead. It is even growing. But the number of destinations is growing. And the Caribbean, Greece and Eastern European countries are less expensive destinations than Spain. How to react to such competition? Coastal hoteliers must develop better quality products to better meet the needs of a clientele that is not concerned about the price. For those that are unable to adapt, and certain independent hotels in particular, it is a very difficult, but not impossible, challenge to take up. Another very important effort to make: redirect beach resort tourism inland. Spain, is not just sun and beaches. Another kind of tourism is developing: cultural and gastronomic tourism. As in the textile industry, it is necessary to be able to adapt to market conditions.HTR: You have a very diverse portfolio. And yet, the segmentation of Husa’s offer is not clearly defined. What is the reason for this strategy? _ J.G.S: We have 1* and 2* as well as 5* properties. It is important that we not close our door on development opportunities. Our positioning is not solely as a mid-scale chain. And yet, the bulk of our portfolio consists of 3 and 4* business hotels in city centres. A long-standing question is whether or not we should establish segmentation like that of Accor with a different name for each of our segments. Husa is highly recognised in Spain. Also, we don’t want to dilute the strength of this brand. We opted for segmentation by type of property or location: charming, luxury or city, alpine, beach... But the question is still relevant.HTR: Do you foresee any development perspectives on your domestic market? _ J.G.S: We are well-known in Spain. Husa is the oldest chain in the country. Our group has opportunities in all the major cities on our priority segment: mid-scale properties in city centres. In large cities, the economy segment - 0* to 2* - works well. But on the whole, clientele are always looking for the best quality, air conditioning, satellite television. Meanwhile in Spain, unlike France, there is less of a price difference between a 2* 3*, or between 3* and 4*.HTR: With over 160 hotels in Spain, your growing potential nonetheless seems to be shrinking? _ J.G.S: It is true, we are already well-established in most cities. With each new property it is increasingly difficult to find interesting things. Also, the time is right for developing on an international scale. The future of Husa lies in growth in the biggest cities near Spain. That means less than 2,000 kilometres and includes Paris, Rome, Lisbon, London or Berlin, as well as North Africa. The Caribbean is a closed market for us. Other major chains and Spanish ones, in particular such as NH Hoteles or Sol Melia, already have a strong presence on this market.HTR: What are your international perspectives? _ J.G.S: Our goal is to have twenty or so properties outside Spain in five years. Our international development strategy is identical to the one in Spain: 3 and 4* midsize properties, with 80 to 120 rooms. There are also small chains, properties in Italy or in France that want to develop under the aegis of a large chain like Husa. In terms of contracts, we are very opportunistic. We have no defined strategy. Everything will happen as the opportunity arises: as management, rental or franchise.HTR: Is Husa a brand that is known almost exclusively on the Spanish market? _ J.G.S: It is true. We are not as well known outside our domestic market. This is why we are going to push our presence on the Internet. We have already improved our Web site to boost online sales.

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