It has been more than a year since the pandemic stalled everything all over the world. How was the situation for Riu and how is it now?
We have 100 hotels in 20 countries and in March 2020 we had to close all of them, at the same time, for the first time in our 68 years of history. Those days were the hardest we remember for the business and the uncertainty we lived was very frightening. But, it is true that we immediately started working on the reopening with enhanced health and safety protocols; something that we did since the month of June 2020 onwards. But it has been a bumpy road, taking steps forward and many times having to step back.
But today, I am happy to say that we are optimistic for the first time in a long time. In fact, we have just announced the reopening all of our properties worldwide. This is great news for the company and for our employees, who can go back to their hotels and to welcoming our guests, resuming their daily life to the greatest extent possible.
How many of your properties have reopened and what has been the footfall so far?
Riu has now opened almost all of its hotels, with the exception of the Sri Lanka hotel, which will open its doors on December 3. The rest of the hotels, which have been reopening their doors during these months, are already operating normally.
After the reopening, which countries are your biggest and strongest markets?
One of the behaviours we have observed during the pandemic is that there has been a spike in local tourism as the country’s borders have been closed and travellers felt safer staying close to home. So, we have received a lot of local customers in all of our destinations. For example, hotels in Mexico have received, during the last year, a large volume of local customers. We can’t single out one market in particular as it depends on many factors such as restrictions to businesses and capacity, flights being available and borders opening, and this has been something that has been changing frequently.
While the hotels were closed, was there any specific innovation or large-scale renovation that you can outline?
In March 2020, the Riu chain was forced to close its 99 hotels around the world. In December of the same year, as activity began to resume, we opened the new Riu Dubai hotel on Deira Island, our first hotel in the UAE. This hotel is the ideal choice for family travels because it has its own Splash Water World for adults and children, activities, a wide entertainment programme and Riu’s all-inclusive 24h service.
In addition, the chain worked on two other important refurbishments, namely the Riu Tikida Garden in Morocco, which opened in July 2021, and the Riu Palace Maspalomas in Gran Canaria, Spain, which opened in August of the same year.
What are your plans for the Indian market? How soon and to what extent do you foresee a recovery in the Indian market?
What we have learned during this pandemic, is that the Indian market is very eager to travel at anytime and anywhere. When the borders were opened to travel to Maldives, Indian travellers were the first to pack their bags and took the flight to enjoy their holidays. Right now, India is the top market for destination Maldives and we strongly believe that with every new destination opened, providing that the direct flights will be in place, we will be seeing more travellers from India in our hotels.
Our two all-inclusive resorts in Maldives offer a complete range of activities for all ages, as their rooms have drink dispensers, several themed restaurants and a wide range of activities for all ages.
Riu Dubai and Riu Sri Lanka are also receiving a lot of attention from the travel trade from India, but the current strict measures that are implemented upon arrival to the destination still holds some of the Indian travellers back.
By when do you see a full recovery of the Indian and global tourism markets?
With the increasing confidence for travel and safety protocols in place in all our Riu hotels worldwide, we believe that we will be able to attract more Indian market to our hotels and to reach the pre-pandemic numbers in 2022.
How are you communicating in the Indian marketplace and what are your key strategies?
We have two representatives based in India – Delhi and Mumbai, who are constantly in contact with our local partners through sales calls – sharing news, offers, destination updates and holding training on-line and off-line. We also hope to be able to organise an event for our partners in both cities soon!