During a recent trip to the Spanish island of Mallorca, I visited the renowned Gran Meliá Hotel de Mar, known locally as the ‘Chocolate Hotel.’ From the first moment, I felt the warmth of Spanish hospitality through Meliá, which greatly influenced my stay in the resort city of Palma. I also had the pleasure of engaging in a fascinating conversation with André Philippe Gerondeau, the COO of Meliá Hotels International. With 19 years of experience with this hospitality brand, which has its origins in the beautiful Spanish island of Mallorca.
This exchange offered a unique glimpse into Meliá’s philosophy and its journey into the Vietnamese market.
The Journey into Vietnam and Beyond
Meliá Hotels first set foot in Vietnam in 1997, starting with Meliá Hanoi. According to André, the Vietnamese capital served as a gateway, an opening for the brand to make its mark in Vietnam. Over the years, the hotel has evolved into more than just a luxurious place to stay. It’s the “Official Hotel in Hanoi” and a bustling social hub where everything from weddings to corporate product launches happens. This is a testament to Meliá’s focus on being an integral part of the local community, something that André says is vital to the company’s ethos. With a view to cater to the growing food and beverage demands of locals and visitors to the capital, Meliá’s longest-serving hotel in Hanoi is refreshing with new outlets this year, namely its newest addition, Cham Restaurant.
Meliá’s roots in Mallorca have had a significant impact on its brand philosophy and have shaped its approach in Vietnam and the APAC region. André pointed out similarities between Spain and Vietnam, such as their natural beauty, weather, and deep-rooted hospitality culture. This cultural alignment isn’t coincidental; it’s strategic. “Vietnam, like Spain, has all the potential elements for growth and forms a key part of our global strategy,” he shared.
Mastering the Balancing Act and Facing Challenges
Scaling premium is a challenge that Meliá is well aware of, especially since some of their leisure properties tend to be smaller in size. André discussed the importance of the buildings themselves and how they fit into Meliá’s broader vision. For instance, the Gran Meliá Hotel de Mar’s design was carefully selected to resonate with the region’s aesthetics and history. But it’s not just about the physical building; it’s also about the values driving the business.
A significant aspect of these values is Meliá’s emphasis on long-term relationships. Since launching its first international property in Bali in 1985, Meliá has maintained a partnership with the same family, now in its third generation. “We come into a market early if we see its potential,” André mentioned, underlining that Meliá aims to be a leader in leisure tourism while maintaining a strong commitment to sustainability and quality.
André acknowledged the importance of the whole destination’s planning to the quality of premium experiences. He was candid about the need for sustainable strategies, emphasizing that Meliá is committed to contributing to well-planned developments.
The Road Ahead
Meliá opened its first property in Hanoi in 1999 and, years later, moved on to cultivate some of the most exciting destinations in the country, including new resorts in Da Nang, Phu Quoc, and Ho Tram. The biggest move came last year with the collaboration with Vinpearl, emerging as one of the biggest international hospitality players in Vietnam.
Looking into the future, Meliá has set ambitious goals for Vietnam. André expressed the desire to be either the first or second in total hotel management in the country. The aim is to offer experiences across Vietnam that are uniquely Meliá, balancing global standards with the rich, multicultural essence of the region.
Meliá Hotels in Vietnam is more than just a string of premium luxury accommodations. It’s a meeting point of Spanish leisure culture and Vietnam’s rapidly evolving tourism landscape. With long-term visions, sustainable growth, and a strong focus on cultural authenticity, Meliá is creating a unique hospitality story in Vietnam—one that I got a small but potent taste of in Mallorca’s famed ‘Chocolate Hotel.’