Spain is a country that has long been on my to-do list, but I have never had the opportunity to visit … until now. However, it’s a country about which I have very limited knowledge. I only had enough time for one city as well — Madrid or Barcelona. Coin flip — Barcelona won. Without any prior recommendations or word-of-mouth tips to guide my hotel selection, I had to rely solely on Internet research. In the end, I chose the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona (MOB) for a variety of favors, key among them being its proximity to the historic center and its rave reviews on review websites.
I chose wisely. MOB is a spectacle among spectacles. With that as an introduction, I was more than happy to sit down with General Manager Gerard Sintes to discuss what makes his property click.
Larry Mogelonsky: Give me a brief overview of the product — rooms, staff, geographic intensity, guest age, etc. What are some of the key strengths?
Gerard Sintes: Two key strengths to start with are its utterly fantastic location on Paseo de Gracia (the Champs-Elysees of Barcelona) and its great design (a beautiful, contemporary look but still very comfortable). MOB is compact in its indoor public areas, thus easy to “manage” from a guest point of view. This comes as a contrast to our two outdoor areas, including a 400-sq-m (4,306-sq-ft) private garden/Catalan patio and two swimming pools, one of which is on the roof of the hotel.
We are a leisure hotel (90% of our business) with an array of nationalities coming from the U.S., Europe, Brazil and a sprinkling of Russia and the Middle East. To accommodate all these different cultures, it all comes down to our outstanding staff with a young vibrancy providing great personal service.
LM: In our discussions, you described a channel distribution that is very traditional with limited OTA participation. Do you see the OTA channels increasing in importance?
GS: Being a relatively small hotel, we do not foresee an increase in OTA business where volume is managed by our head office to ensure we do not neglect our direct bookings to the hotel or the company website. These two channels are far more important in terms of volume and show there is still a sizeable market in this luxury segment that is happy to book us directly. This is particularly evident for us in terms of suites reservations.
LM: We also discussed Wi-Fi and the costs of implementing an expanded bandwidth program for guests. How do you plan to manage the costs relative to the demand for free Wi-Fi?
GS: The company is in the process of reviewing our global policy on Internet access and charges, so I cannot comment on this right now. Suffice to say, we have recently extended our bandwidth capacity for our guests’ usage to 150mb.