The 426-room all-inclusive Iberostar Cancun held its grand opening ceremony on February 2, following a $100 million renovation of the former Hilton Cancun. Among those invited to the event was Don Miguel Fluxa, executive chairman of Iberostar. We sat down with Mr. Fluxa to discuss the brand, the new hotel and what it’s like to have Antonio Banderas as part of his team.
How are you able to be so successful with Iberostar Hotels in this trying economy?
Miguel Fluxa: Our family has a long history in the business. My grandfather started the shoe industry in Mallorca. My father continued to be in the shoe business and at one point Spain had a blockade after the war. At that point my father wanted to open his business to the world. He said, ‘We have to become international.’ So he bought a small travel agency with six offices. We had the largest tour operation business and airline in Spain. Then they made us a great offer so we sold it and focused on hotels.
We are successful because we are crazy about quality. We believe in value for your money. So if you have a client that leaves your hotel satisfied you know they’ll come back. During this difficult period we have been obliged to restudy our organization because the business is changing and you have to adapt to the reality of the business today.
We believe that wholesalers will be there forever but the proportion of business will be divided between online and wholesale.
How can Cancun benefit from the introduction of the Iberostar brand in this location?
I believe our company focuses on quality and an example is that we don’t have any hotels that are not on the first line on the beach. I remember visiting the US many years ago and I saw that all the big hotel companies offered a unified product.
We have a product that is top notch, and this is why we believe we have this name. If we have a good name and a good number of followers, we believe that with this hotel we can help Cancun.
Our hotel has two things that other hotels in Cancun don’t have. The first is a 5,000-sm convention center. We can host conventions with 2,000 to 3,000 people here and help other hotels that way, since we don’t have that amount of rooms.
The second is an 18-hole golf course. We have a property that benefits the area. This hotel was in need of renovations and we did that and now I think we can benefit Cancun with it.
Were you ever concerned by the stories about the personal dangers of being in Mexico?
A lot of the problems that are taking place are because people are going to places they shouldn’t go to. In certain areas like Cancun and Riviera Maya there are the same kinds of problems that you have if you stay in any other city in the world. I mean, if you go to a bar, get drunk and talk to people you shouldn’t be talking to then you risk the same dangers that you would in any other place you did that.
Because Mexico is such a big country people get confused. There are some areas that do have cartels and are difficult to control but in the touristic areas we don’t have any issues like that.
Do you offer promotions or packages to help secure bookings?
We have to adapt to the demand so if planners or agents need packages then we try to help them. The problem is that people ask for lower prices without realizing that if you are weak and cut down on price, you cut down on quality.
How do you plan to attract group business to your hotel?
With conventions and groups you have to adapt to the client. We have a team of professionals that are flexible. We are large but we are not a Hilton or Marriott where the organizations are tremendous. We can give things that they can’t because we have a more personal approach when we deal with our clients.
What did the renovation entail of?
The main change was in the area of food and beverage. We have created new restaurants, an area for entertainment and in the guestrooms—especially in the bathrooms. We did it all in four months.
Do you have plans for further expansion in Mexico?
We might continue to invest in Mexico but today you have to be careful when you invest. They ask for high interest rates and today it’s much better to buy a hotel that’s already built than to build one yourself. We’re looking into places on the Pacific, near Puerto Vallarta.
We have created a new division for our city hotels. We have recently opened city hotels in Budapest, Santa Cruz and Havana, Cuba.
Why did you choose Antonio Banderas as your brand ambassador?
We did it because Antonio is very well-known in the United States, which is one of our targeted markets. Also because he is Hispanic and can relate to our company. He’s also a great artist and we liked the way he behaves and works.