With the global rise in bleisure travel, one company and its members are more equipped than ever before to cater to the demands of modern business travellers. In light of this, and ahead of leading a panel discussion on the topic, editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with Pedro Colaco, CEO of Great Hotels of The World, to find out why independent hotels need to rethink their business facilities in order to maximise on every opportunity…
The saying goes: “Turn your wounds into wisdom”, which is a slightly dramatic term that, in short, means learn from your experiences. One man who built his empire on this motto – albeit it learning from other brands’ wounds but very much his own bleisure travel experiences – is Pedro Colaco, the CEO of Great Hotels of The World (GHOTW). Colaco is also the founder and CEO of tech company Guest Centric, which completed the acquisition of GHOTW last year, and with it brought valuable digital experience. Having spent years seeing hotels getting it wrong, Colaco decided to help GHOTW’s members get it right. “How many times have you checked in to a hotel late at night, perhaps because of a delayed flight or whatever, you were hungry and tired but there was no food?” Colaco rhetorically asks. “Welcome to the glamorous life of yesterday’s business travel,” he laughs.
As we skip the small talk and start discussing the current landscape of the hotel development, both in our element identifying great independent hotels as well as off-the-grid hotspot locations around the world, I wonder what Colaco’s definition of a ‘great’ hotel is. “For us, in terms of our memberships, we work with larger hotels in the bleisure segment in order to bring as much value to them as we can,” he explains. “A GHOTW hotel needs to have something special about it, whether that is a cinema, a theme park or simply just a great rooftop pool or bar.”
It strikes me that becoming a member of GHOTW is something that should be seen as a prestigious complement, an accolade celebrating potential if you like. “Take Dubai, for example. There are many incredible hotels within the city, and more opening every day, but we want to ensure that we do not have too many hotels within one region,” Colaco explains. “Therefore, we have to think strategically and hand-select the independent hotels that we can best help to take to the next level.” In essence, a hotel can only become part of the GHOTW portfolio if it meets the company’s criteria and if Colaco and his team genuinely believe they can help. “One of the large segments that we provide in terms of marketing is MICE,” adds Colaco, which makes sense considering the facilities from Guest Centric that it can lean on.
“A staggering 75 per cent of business travellers want to extend their stay for leisure.”
The company, which provides global hotel sales and marketing services, recently shared the results of new headline-grabbing survey that it led. The study showed a staggering 75 per cent of business travellers want to extend their stay for leisure. What’s more is that of the 75 per cent, more than two-thirds would turn their work trip into a holiday while staying in the same hotel. “Long gone are the days when business travellers had to stay in soulless business districts,” explains Colaco. “I’m sure you will agree that modern business travellers want check in where the action is. Independent hotels are born in a place and live in a place, and it’s that personality of each property that we want to capture and amplify to the world of prospective business travellers.”
Hamish Kilburn: I have just given you a large sum of money, and you are only allowed to use it to build a hotel. Where in world would this hotel be?
Pedro Colaco: Oh my gosh, for me? How generous! A desert island somewhere. It would be very simple – I think there is a lot to be said about ‘undertourism’. My hotel that you have so kindly given me the funds for will be a hidden gem away from the noise. In all seriousness, watch this space for new travel trends celebrating going back to basics!
HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
PC: Patagonia, Iceland and the Polar Circle to see the northern lights. I have to visit all these places before I die, but getting the time off to explore these wonders is mission impossible!
HK: What’s your biggest bugbear in this industry?
PC: Some hoteliers’ lack of attention detail with technology. Modern travellers are connected and demand instant gratification. I think many hoteliers fall behind by adopting gimmicks without having considered whether or not they will help the guests’ experience.
HK: You clearly travel a lot, what is the one item you cannot travel without?
PC: My razor! You asked…
HK: Has there been one person who you can identify as an inspiration to your journey in this industry?
PC: That’s difficult, there are so many people who inspire me. From a business point of view alone I have had many great mentors. Honestly, there is not one single person I can mention.
HK: Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?
PC: Oh lots! Are you kidding me? But you learn from your mistakes and I have no regrets!
“GHOTW has the technology and the commitment to help our members compete on a global scale.” – Pedro Colaco, CEO, Great Hotels of the World
With the experience and technology from Guest Centric, the resources that GHOTW has at its fingertips are impressive, to say the least. “It’s hard to be an independent hotel in today’s market as more and more hotel groups launch lifestyle brands in tier two cities,” says Colaco. “However, GHOTW has the technology and the commitment to help our members compete on a global scale.”
For me, in the little time I have had to get to know one of the many masters behind the brand, it’s clear that Colaco likes to work within a team in order to support the underdogs in our industry, the independents. In doing so, he and his team of experts are helping local businesses within the hotel industry to not only survive, but also to thrive. With recent news from the brand stating that it will receive more than €3,000,000 investment over the next two years in order to welcome new members from around the globe, GHOTW – a company that cares – just became greater!