It's never easy launching a new hotel
brand, even for a well-established company like Sol Melia Hotels
Yet, even though
it is entering a market brimming with new hotel concepts jockeying
for consumer attention, Sol Melia is confident that it's new
product, ME by Melia, will be a standout.
Two have already
opened. The 448-room ME Cancun made its debut earlier this month,
and the 192-room ME Madrid, Reina Victoria opened in October in
Madrid's Plaza de Santa Ana. Both hotels were developed from
At first blush,
ME by Melia seems to be a trendy cousin to Starwood Hotels'
fast-growing W Hotel brand.
"It is a
contemporary interpretation of the Melia experience," said Andre
Gerondeau, Sol Melia's executive vice president, North
ME by Melia aims
to strike a balance between hip/contemporary and Sol Melia's
reputation for distinctive hotel experiences to ultimately create
an experience that is sexy, evocative, sophisticated and
In developing ME
Cancun, Sol Melia tapped Alvaro Sans, an architect who has
developed several Sol Melia properties, and designer Rebecca Pere
of Interarq, a Mexico-based architectural firm. Mexican artist Yuri
Zatarain has been asked to reinterpret the Melia Turquesa to fit
the ME by Melia concept.
enlivened the rooms with a palate of rich colors, along with custom
Sol Melia then
added some of the hallmarks of the ME by Melia brand, including DVD
players, 32-inch plasma-screen TVs, surround-sound audio; an
extensive DVD library and iPod adaptors and connectivity docking
stations in all guest rooms.
300-thread-count linens and a down pillow-top mattress. In the
bathrooms are all-natural toiletry products by Aveda.
The property also
has a spa, a swimming pool, meetings space and a banquet hall.
High-speed Internet access is available throughout.
Added to the mix
are restaurants and lounges run by third-party companies with a
track record for developing successful restaurants.
The result, is "a
balanced, overall experience" that Gerondeau described as "Nuevo
If at first you don't succeed ...
About three years
ago, Sol Melia forged a joint venture with Hard Rock Cafe in an
effort to develop hotels by building on each company's market
"Hard Rock needed
a partner that could focus on bringing in the systems --
administration, technology and sales," Gerondeau said. "We were
looking for an alternative way to freshen up internally and
understand new concepts and bring high energy into our company.
This was a perfect match."
The two companies
hit upon a lodging concept that combined Hard Rock's high energy,
music-oriented hotel background with Sol Melia's international
The joint venture
could have provided Sol Melia with an opportunity to expand its
presence in the U.S. market. Currently, it has only one property in
the U.S., the Paramount Hotel in New York.
"It would have
been a Hard Rock and a Sol Melia experience," Gerondeau said. "We
were going to try to bring the Hard Rock brand into Europe, South
America and the Caribbean, where we had experience, profiting from
the Hard Rock's U.S. experience while bringing substance to the
brand," Gerondeau said.
But it became
increasingly difficult to execute the concept.
"We both decided
the effort we were putting into the joint venture and the direction
was not necessarily, in the long term, going to be in the best
benefit of both companies," Gerondeau said. "So we decided to
dissolve the joint venture."
Melia was still hot to create a fresh new hotel concept, and that
inspired the development of ME by Melia.
"We felt we
needed to launch something that is a standalone, high-energy
concept supported by our name, Melia, while at the same time we
needed this high-energy concept to support Melia as a brand,"
Gerondeau said. "So you will see a more contemporary Melia, along
with a high-energy brand within Melia."
How it all began
The launch of ME
by Melia is the latest highlight in the history of Sol Melia Hotels
The roots of the
company were planted in 1956 by Gabriel Escarrer Julia.
At the time he
was just 20 years old and working as head of reservations for the
Wagon-Lits travel agency in Palma, on the island of Mallorca off
the coast of Spain.
"There was a huge
demand from the German and British market coming into Palma de
Mallorca," Gerondeau said.
But Julia felt
that supply wasn't keeping pace with demand.
"He saw the lack
of offerings Palma had. So he convinced [a businessperson] to lease
a 20-room property to him. He started with that," Gerondeau
While keeping his
day job, Julia later went on to lease three other properties to
keep up with his growing clientele.
Using a similar
formula, Julia expanded into Spain where he later had an
opportunity to acquire a known group of properties, Melia Hotels,
which at the time was linked to Melia travel agencies.
"It grew from
there," Gerondeau said. "Julia was someone who worked very hard and
never took anything for granted."
to guide Sol Melia today.
portfolio includes 330 properties in Europe, Asia, the Middle East,
Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. The hotels generally fall
under one of four brands: Sol, Melia, Paradisus and
Sol Melia owns or
leases about 45% of its hotels, while the remaining 50% to 55% of
the properties are operated under management agreements.
most major U.S. hotel chains own few properties that bear their
name as most are franchised, a business model that holds little
appeal to Sol Melia.
franchising is a good model," Gerondeau said. "We have nothing
against franchising. But we haven't worked with it. We prefer not
objective is to develop hotels that accommodate the "life cycles"
of its guests.
"As you move
along the cycle, we have an opportunity to upgrade the experience
for you," Gerondeau said.
"We feel that it
is very important that the customer cycle moves along with our own
cycle. They can start being a Sol or a Tryp guest and then move
into the Melia cycle. While you are in the Melia cycle, you can
become a member in the Melia Vacation Club," said Gerondeau. "It is
a very important in our strategy in that we create guest
experiences so that we can keep the loyalty of our customers for
the next 40 or 50 years."
To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].