In 1956, Gabriel Escarrer Juliá was only 21 years old when he founded what is now Meliá Hotels International, acquiring and managing a 60-room hotel on the island of Majorca, where he was born, and where he still maintains the headquarters of what has now become one of the most successful hotel companies in the world. For the 5 years before that, Escarrer worked in tour operations and got his first taste of the emerging tourism industry, of which he would later become a visionary, pioneer and transforming entrepreneur.
Over his six decades as Chairman, the company consolidated its leadership in Spain, the birthplace of European holiday travel, and extended it to the American Caribbean and Southeast Asia, as well as to Europe, regions where it continues to grow and is now acknowledged as one of the leading hotel groups. Over these years, Escarrer formed a number of strategic alliances that strengthened the company positioning in destinations such as Cuba and Indonesia, and in the 1990s, after several acquisitions of medium-sized and large hotel chains, Meliá extended its operations to urban hotels in Spain, Europe, Asia and America. During the same period, the company IPO brought with it a new stage of growth which was strengthened by strategic planning and the debut of the second generation of family members in management, marking the beginning of a profound cultural transformation to prepare it to face the challenges of a new business environment in the 21st century.
One of the high spots in the history of the Company took place in the 80s, when the Group founded by Escarrer acquired two of the most important hotels chains in Europe at that time: Hotasa and Meliá, representing an additional 70 hotels in just one year. With this acquisition, the Group obtained greater importance in the national and international markets, as well as stronger brand recognition.
After emerging from the major financial crisis that shook the industry between 2008 and 2013, and after ensuring that the company was in very safe hands, Gabriel Escarrer Juliá resigned his executive powers in December 2016, transferring control to his son Gabriel Escarrer Jaume as Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, with the elder Escarrer assuming the role of Non Executive Chairman, as well as remaining as Chairman of the Board of Directors and of the Annual General Shareholders' Meeting.
As a result of his extensive experience in the travel industry, Gabriel Escarrer Juliá has received numerous awards that acknowledge his important contribution to Spanish and international hospitality. One of the most emotive for the founder of Meliá Hotels International was the achievement of a Doctor Honoris Causa degree from the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) in December 1988. As early as 1998 he received the "Tourist Personality of the Century" award, winning a large majority in a survey of 300 travel industry professionals.
A year later he received more prestigious awards such as the “Best Entrepreneur in Construction and Real Estate Promotion” from the Masters in Management of Construction and Real Estate Companies and the "Actualidad Económica" magazine, “Corporate Hotelier of the Year" from the well-known American "Hotels" magazine, and several Lifetime Achievement Awards from such prestigious organizations as the International Hotel Investment Forum, the World Tourism Organization and the European Hospitality Awards.
In May 2001, Escarrer was selected to join the exclusive "Hall of Fame" of the British Travel Industry. His candidacy was proposed and endorsed by some of the most important people in the international tourism industry, as well as existing members of the Hall of Fame such as Martin Brackenbury (Federation of Tour Operators and Airtours), Richard Branson (Virgin), Michael Bishop (British Midland) and David Crossland (Airtours). That same year, the Chairman of Meliá Hotels International joined the “Hall of Honor” at the Conrad N. Hilton School of Hotel Management at the University of Houston (USA), sharing honours with Lynn and Ed Hogan (Pleasant Holidays), Alice Sheets Marriott (Marriott Corporation) and Marilyn Carlson Nelson (Carlson Companies).
In 2002 Meliá Hotels International signed an agreement with the Balearic Islands University to create the "Meliá Chair in Tourism Studies", which has ever since organized an annual "Gabriel Escarrer Tourism Studies Award
Gabriel Escarrer received acknowledgement for his career from the Ibero-American Conference of Tourism Ministers and Entrepreneurs in 2006, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the company, and also obtained the Balearic Islands Medal, the highest distinction of his local community, in recognition of his work, and the Chamber of Commerce Medal of Majorca, Ibiza and Formentera. In 2011, Escarrer received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the European Hospitality Awards in London in recognition of his long career as founder of the largest hotel in Spain and third largest in Europe. In 2012 MKG also awarded him an award at the Worldwide Hospitality Awards in Paris, and he also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Tourism Organization. In 2016, he entered the Hall of Fame of the Hotel-E Investment Conference, one of the most important international hotel investment forums, and was also named Honorary Ambassador of Brand Spain.
Recognized as one of the key figures in the history of international tourism, Gabriel Escarrer continues to contribute the experience and know-how acquired over more than 60 years as non-executive Chairman of Meliá Hotels International and Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Annual General Meeting. He also maintains intact his faith for the transforming power of tourism in society, an industry that that he believes "unites countries, crosses borders, and promotes social and economic welfare."