Hi Gonzalo, welcome to the O Interview and thank you for your time. Here we go!!
What is your professional background?
I have a Political Science-International Affairs BA but my passion, which I inherited from my father, was always in the travel industry.
As soon as I graduated from university I jumped on a plane and moved to the USA where I landed a job as a concierge in Hyatt Regency Chicago. I later did an MBA focused on tourism and held several positions as Director of Sales for Spain-based hotel groups (Rafaelhotels) and USA-based Luxe Collection Hotels. I am now VP of International Development for Luxe, based in Madrid but frequently on the road.
How did you get into the business you’re in today?
I always had a severe case of wanderlust. When other children would spend their summer days playing football or going to the pool, I was going to visit hotels and museums. My hobby was to learn everything about the airlines and collect directories from hotel chains. It was very clear in my case. Then, my father has done an amazing career in the travel industry. He speaks five languages fluently and it’s a passion that I also inherited.
Tell us a little bit more about Luxe Collection Hotels! What is your value proposition?
Be independent, not alone! With Luxe Collection, we provide independent hotels with a global reach in global sales, marketing and distribution, while maintaining your identity in a very personalized approach.
Our manageable portfolio allows us to achieve extraordinary results, while our “pay for performance” billing methodology will assure a strong ROI. Our LUXE collection of worldwide properties spanning across 12 countries, is represented by our 12 international sales offices. We believe that your independence is our success.
If you have to choose one hotel in the whole Luxe Collection portfolio, which will you pick?
This is a very hard question. I am going to pick up the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Los Angeles. Located between Bel Air and Brentwood it’s a secluded, peaceful resort inside the city. The service is top-notch, the rooms are huge (size matters when it comes to hotel rooms, at least for me), bedding is dreamy and I have too many fond memories. Location next to the Getty museum and convenient to Beverly Hills and West Hollywood also help. I have too many fond memories of this hotel.
What do you find most challenging about the MICE industry?
Hmmmm, there are quite a few:
• Tight turn-arounds: more frequently, executives are requesting meeting planners to plan an event or conference with only a 6-month notice (in some cases, less time than that). One meeting planner shared with me she is seeing more millennials in executive roles who may not understand the true length of time it takes to plan a large conference.
• Budgets causing fewer meetings – as companies look at cutting costs, events are examined and companies are either consolidating meetings or going to a digital format.
• Specific to hotels: alternative housing solutions continue to innovate and move into the meetings / events arena. Hoteliers need to stress safety, security, service, amenities that can be guaranteed in their hotel.
Did you have any mentors or people who deeply influenced your career?
Yes, Efrem Harkham, CEO of Luxe Hotels. I’ve never seen such a passion or drive in my whole life (well, maybe my father) and he’s been not just a boss but a role model during most of my professional life. I used to be a client of his before he hired me. He recently published a book called “LIVING THE LUXE LIFE” which tells us the secrets about building a successful hotel empire and much, much more. It’s a great read!
Now, let’s talk a little bit more about you as a person,
Proudest moment in your career to date?
I remember the first LUXE hotel membership conference we put together in LA back in 2011 and the huge turnout of European hotels, that made me very proud. Being selected to represent the City of Seville in the USA was another one. I also enjoy teaching about the hotel industry @ IE university.
What is your favourite destination in Spain and why?
Madrid. It’s an open city. Move here and you will become a madrileño in no-time! We embrace people from all nationalities and you can’t match our offer of culture, food and nightlife. As we madrileños say “De Madrid al Cielo”. We truly have a passion for life and visitors can tell and experience it.
A book recommendation?
Living the Luxe Life by Efrem Harkham and…Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What is the best advice you would give to the young professional generation?
Your English must be PERFECT. If you want to work in the travel industry, invest time in ensuring that your English is flawless. I speak other languages, but these days, it’s English that really matters and I’m surprised to see that the young generation is not much better in English than mine.
Thanks so much, Gonzalo, for sharing with us so many interesting insights about your life and successes.