MARÍA FRONTERA

Spain 2021 | TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to María Frontera, President of the Federation of Hotel Business of Mallorca (FEHM), about leading hospitality in the Balearics, the present state of hotel facilities, and expanding the tourism offering on the islands.

Being one of the oldest hotel associations in Spain, how has FEHM acted as a model for associations in hospitality, and how has its role evolved to date?

The tourist revolution in Spain started in the 1960s and 1970s, and FEHM was created along that booming of the tourism sector in the country. At the time, stakeholders in the hotel industry came together to seek to strengthen and develop the sector. At that moment, the main areas were to create the needed infrastructure to develop tourism. Currently, our main role is to defend the interests of our members, represent them and act as a lobby, while also sharing knowledge not only with those related to our organization but also with other private institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce or the University of the Balearic Islands. Under our umbrella, there are 23 hotel associations from the different touristic areas of the island of Mallorca. As part of the work of the association, we also provide consultancy services to help our affiliates entities. FEHM addresses diverse matters in areas such as navigating bureaucracy, develop projects, participate in promotion of the island and touristic products or to help hotels become more sustainable or digital. Nowadays, thanks to a huge effort of transformation and investment higher than EUR2 billion, more than 62% of the hotels that belong to our association have four or five stars. Our Federation is also diverse in terms of members, as we include small companies as well as the local hotels together with Mallorcan hotel companies that have “conquered” the world of hospitality and taken their brands all over the world.

What is your assessment of the hotel facilities in Mallorca and the overall economic impact of the sector on the island?

There are more than 1,200 hotel units in our island. We have to take into account that the touristic sector is the main engine of the economy in the Balearic Islands, representing more than 42% of the GDP in this region. This sector has a great deal of traction. In this archipelago, we have always sought to enlarge the summer season, which is something FEHM works for. It is important for us to establish a roadmap to determine where and how we want to be in the near future.

How are hoteliers here working toward sustainability and digitalization, and how has this trend been accelerated recently?

More than eight years ago, the island decided to focus its tourism strategy on increasing the quality of the Balearic Islands as a destination. When I took office as President of FEHM, I stated that Mallorca had to focus on growing more in value than in volume. There has to be a collaboration between the private and the public sectors to transform the tourism industry. The sector has agreed that we needed a framework to transition toward sustainable tourism. Currently, the transformation is well rooted among local hotel businesses. During the pandemic, there has been willingness to work toward digitalization. We have grown in the process to create strategic partnerships, and a great deal of work has been done to advance in the circularity of our economy, where I am pleased to see that hotels are having a great positive contribution. Mallorca wants to become the first destination with a strong circular economy. We are fully aware that we cannot value what we cannot measure. We must walk a path, but not hotels alone, also the tourist value chain ans administration must work on it properly.

What are the main challenges facing the tourism industry in Mallorca, and what can hotels do to promote the diversification of offerings for tourists?

A great level of diversification has been achieved many years ago. Despite the beach and sun tourism offer is our most popular product and the most visible, we talk about “beach and sun plus”. However, we have been promoting other types of tourism, including extremely exclusive hotels. Some of the old palaces in the city center of Palma have been revamped and are today unique hotels ready to cater to the most demanding tourists. Mallorca is receiving many tourists in addition to just sun and beach tourists, but it is combined in a different manner. There are areas in the Serra de Tramuntana, where many tourists flock to. There are as well family hotels that are focused on cooperating with rural areas of the islands. We are focused heavily on the diversification of those areas. Tourism in the mountain region does not depend that much on the summer season. Many of these hotels in the mountain receive tourists who are interested in doing sports such as golf, for example. Mallorca is gaining a strong position in new tourism offerings such as outdoor sports, gastronomy, culture, wine tourism, MICE, and wellness. We are all on the right track to advance and it is important that the hotels work in the same direction to adapt their services to an increasingly diverse tourist.

What are some of the investment opportunities in the hotel sector in Mallorca?

Investing in Mallorca has always been attractive. The public and private sectors are committed to working together. Many investments have been delayed due to the pandemic, but they are being restarted again. About 40% of the hotel infrastructure requires investments, and Mallorca is well positioned to receive new investments to expand the tourist experience. The connection between the leisure and tourism sectors is positive. Strategic alliances are key to consolidate the growth in this industry. We are one of the best touristic destinations in the Mediterranean Sea that is firmly on the track to sustainability, and we are on the right path toward the circular economy.