We had the opportunity to interview the director of the Hospitality 4.0 Congress for HIP Madrid, Eva Ballarin, also founder and director of HorecaSpeakers and teacher of the Basque Culinary Center, OSTELEA and EAE Business Schools.
Hello Eva! First of all, tell us what is your professional background?
I have worked in Spain, London, Holland, Tunisia and Mexico for organizations of the HORECA sector in the last 30 years, helping teams to improve their actions in the design, management and marketing of hotels and restaurants concepts.
How did you get into the business you’re in today?
From the visibility I got with my website, several business schools requested my classes and finally, in 2016 I had the honor of being asked by HIP to lead the Congress, which in its second edition has become the largest European Horeca innovation and transformation congress.
How do you see the future of hospitality, gastronomy and tourism in Spain?
Spain is a country with a long and world-class hotel and hospitality tradition, with great competitive advantages such as the excellent network of modern infrastructures, a large hospitality and complementary offer, keeping prices still reasonable with respect to the countries competitors of the environment.
We have the resources and the experience. We still need to believe that we are leaders and work to professionalize many businesses in a highly atomized sector.
What do you find most challenging about the MICE industry?
The use of technology. Since we have a great multitude of technological tools within our reach, but the truth is that we must take advantage of all them to innovate in our actions, especially in terms of achieving greater learning and knowledge of the assistants to offer them a more effective and personalized service.
Another great challenge is to offer unique experiences. Your next event can only be one way: “unique”, and it must evolve in parallel with the needs of society and the attendants in particular, in an industry that It is in constant change and evolution and in which different generations coexist, from 4G assistants to millennials , generation X and generation Z.
It´s also interesting, and with a wonderful power of energizing the destination, the trend of “bleisure” (business + leisure), to which urban hotels should adapt with an eye on the millennials, who like to combine different elements in their work trips, as shown by the statistics: almost half (47%) of young Spaniards between 18 and 34 who travel for professional reasons lengthens their I stayed a few days to be able to do tourism .
I think that to the extensive offer of traditional spaces (hotels, convention halls, venues…), will be added others such as movie halls or theaters, which by their configuration can provide an interesting scenario for the organization of memorable events.
“Use the technology to improve the knowledge, participation and experience”
How is Spain evolving in this area respecting other countries?
The economic impact of congress tourism in Spain has increased by 43.6% in four years, according to the Spain Convention Bureau , and we are the fourth country in the world in the organization of large international congresses and meetings, only behind the United States, Germany and United Kingdom, with fabulous competitive advantages over these countries such as climate, transport connectivity and infrastructures , with a wide range of great quality hotels and congress palaces to organize any event.
And the future looks positive, the events and corporate travel sector show signs of expansion, definitely embracing new technologies.
Do you have any tips to prepare us for the big tech changes that are happening right now?
The intensive use of technology to improve the knowledge, participation and experience of those who attend an event is one of the keys of the sector .
Among all the technologies that are being developed, artificial intelligence, machine learning and mobile technology are changing the way people search, book and experience travel, with the aim of improving the visitor’s experience. It is very interesting, for example, the use of the chatbots, or all those tools that facilitate the interaction of the user in the event, as real-time comments that guarantee the immediacy of the information; Virtual reality and augmented reality to maximize the impact and raise the audience’s experiences, will be other major players in the events in the coming years.
Sustainability in events is another of the requests that increasingly require more companies to organize meetings. The MICE sector should embrace, like the rest of Travel industry, these goals and align with them to all be able to build better companies in a better world, actions that further enhances brand reputation with the message that the company is committed to sustainability, is innovative and has a vision of the future.
In relation to urban MICE, the challenge is to incorporate ecological solutions that lead to the consolidation of the concept of smart city with social, economic and environmental impacts metrics, offering a new way to travel and access information about hotels, restaurants or attractions.
Favourite destination and restaurant in Spain? Please name at least one.
If I have to stay with one, it would be StreetXO from Dabiz Muñoz in Madrid. Ibiza is my favourite destination in the low season when the island relaxes and is enjoyed in a more intimate way.
Do you have any conferences as speaker in the near time?
- December 13 and 14, Seminar for Pilsa (Granada)
- 17 December HOT day for the Ministry of Education of the Xunta de Galicia
- December 20 Tenerife GastroLab Experience
- 4 February Gastromarketing Malaga
- February 18-20 HIP Congress
Thank you Eva, for sharing with us so many interesting insights, we can’t wait to see what’s next in your professional career!