New Hotelbeds Group—More Than Just Hotels: The news several weeks ago that TUI, which owns Hotelbeds, had changed the name of its TUI Travel Accommodation & Destinations to Hotel Beds Group is aimed at pushing the notion that the latter sells more than just hotel rooms. An indication of what TUI, the largest travel company in the world, is doing came during an NAJ conference session prior to the announcement with a presentation by Alberto Cevera Xicotencatl, regional manager, specialist and groups, the Americas, Hotelbeds. A snappy, energetic, widely traveled thirty-something, he intersperses his quick-response answers to questions with epigrammatic asides (“The last thing we sell is travel. We sell experience. We sell dreams come true”) while trying to convey the point that the company is about more than just hotels.
“Hotelbeds,” he explained was a misnomer, as the company also provides event tickets, transfers, car rentals, attractions, excursions and more, which, he explained, has helped it sell to all group types.
Asked to give a quick breakdown of the activity generated by his office—while its global headquarters are in Palma de Mallorca, an island off the eastern cost of Spain, its Americas operation is located in Cancun, Mexico—his answers offered the following:
- It sends about 8 to 12 groups each month to the U.S.
- The average size of the group it sells/books ranges from 60 to 100 persons, with some as large as 300 to 400.
- It gets between 2,000-3,000 RFQs a year.
- From 60 to 75 percent of the groups are leisure.
- The rest of the groups are mostly MICE; in the first year at Cancun, MICE was about 5 percent of its business and it has more than tripled its share since then.
- There are better conversion rates in MICE market than in leisure. “It’s becoming a last-minute market. It’s tough to handle when you have it (a request) come within a month out … when you used to have 18 months to prepare. But we enjoy it.”
- Currently the company’s top U.S. destinations are Florida (Miami, Orlando), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, and Boston “with every now and then some place like Wichita … and I have no idea where that is.”
- Asked about group trends—are they growing smaller, larger and what are their ages—“It depends on market. People are looking for experiences. The more special, the more specific you can get … that’s what people are looking for …. We are in an industry that doesn’t follow trends. We set trends, we don’t follow them. The biggest trend is that we have to take ownership of that responsibility and develop them.”
- His office’s top source markets now are: Brazil, Spain, South America, Mexico (mostly with companies and businesses), “a little from England,” and “it’s been an amazing year from Arabic countries.”
- Other advice (to suppliers): “Whatever you think is new your destination, tell us … I cannot know, I need you to tell us. We are your distribution channel, and you are our creative team.”