Defining Bleisure

The Meliá Group has its roots very much in Spain with the majority shareholding in the business still being held by the founding Escarrer family. The brand started as a chain of resort hotels focusing on giving the foreign traveler a true taste of Spanish hospitality, food, culture and fun and now boasts more than 370 hotels around the world on four continents. It is an impressive growth and over the last few years they have developed their strength in the UK.

The UK has always been an important market for Meliá Hotels International as many British travelers, having experienced the variety of Meliá resorts abroad, enjoy access to the same at home. It is for this reason that Meliá Hotels International is planning for substantial growth with the aim of having all their brands represented in the UK.

This began with the iconic Meliá White House followed by ME by Meliá in 2013, with the launch of ME London, and in the last few years the introduction of ‘INNSIDE by Meliá, an urban lifestyle hotel that caters to savvy business and chic leisure travellers.

Following the successful opening of INNSIDE Manchester, this contemporary brand continues to grow. Glasgow is the next scheduled city for this part of the brand in 2017, followed by anticipated openings in Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Cardiff will follow.

“We are very fortunate that the British have a deep love for Spanish culture developed over many years,” notes Gioele Camarlinghi. “Each City has its own culture and story and we will find our place within the story.”

“As a brand Meliá Hotels International is both well-known and yet not known at all. Our name builds trust and credibility as we are well established yet people still want to learn more about us. Our role is to ensure that we become part of the communities in which we sit and serve.”

Expansion and culture of the group is underpinned by their concept of Bleisure, which is where they actively look for opportunities to operate and develop the business in key cities where there is a special leisure heritage. Sports, arts and cultural elements are used as a basis to create an effective and thriving business.

The concept of Bleisure runs through the culture of the group which is focused on ensuring that guests, regardless of whether travelling on business or leisure are welcomed and cared for as family, inspired in a variety of ways and always enjoy the most pleasurable and memorable of experiences whilst in their care.

Situated on a quiet corner in the charming area of Regent’s Park, an imposing 1930’s art deco building is home to the Meliá White House. Since April 2010 Gioele Camarlinghi has been at the helm. On meeting Gioele, he is a humble, yet passionate and colourful Italian hotelier who truly believes that hotels are “theatres” and that as a GM it is his honour to be the director and producer of the theatre show. His aim is to inspire his guests in the most innovative, and emotive of ways, by putting on the best “performances” and building relationships with the brand that transcends continents and generations.

“For me, true hotel management is about developing a team that the guest not only trusts but likes to be with. Service sits at my heart and I love how hotels offer guests an experience that they will never forget. It is something that lives in the memory for years. However, to achieve such emotion requires the right team. Hospitality is all about people. Any GM is only as good as any of the individual staff member they lead. The guest’s experience relies on great service – so it is all about people and the environment. The more that we empower the team to play their part and enjoy their work, the guest will enjoy their stay. My job is to inspire our people to be the best they can be and to enjoy their work. I am a coach, a conducter, a parent, a confident and a chef all rolled into one.”

Innovation and creative thinking is at the heart of this hotelier’s vision. Gioele has a traditional hotel in architecture and furnishings and has cleverly and seamlessly mixed this with the avant-garde and the contemporary.

“The White House has a great history and legacy, which gives us a strong story to tell. We bring together this heritage and combine it with modern and creative art styles – whether in the Dry Martini Bar or in the restaurants. We have set the stage in a way that is distinctly different to other hotels and which will challenge the senses of the guest.”

Visibility to customer and their loyalty is a challenge that they, like many majority privately owned hotel chains are faced with. Being innovative and creative is how they are overcoming this challenge. Meliá White House under Gioele’s vision and what started out as simply wanting to fill a large empty wall with art on a stairwell has unexpectedly turned this hotel into an art gallery for emerging artistic talent. An ever-changing collection of pieces on walls and sculptures around the hotel constantly engage and challenges guests and add inspirational value. This initiative has been such a success that for the third year running, an entire floor of 70 bedrooms is opened to over 100 artists who exhibit their art in these rooms during “ArtRooms”, this fair is free for the hotel’s guests and is open to the public. This gives the artists unique visibility, often leading to further opportunities within the industry and provides the hotel with the pleasure of connecting with guests and the local community in an inspiring and uniquely bleisurable way.

As a family founded hotel, family is at the heart of many of the initiatives on offer. This includes adapting experiences and amenities for children under the Kids & Co brand (which includes unlimited ice-cream and personalised check-in) to helping parents when on business trips away from home. They soften the pang of guilt often felt by facilitating complimentary expert led talks on a variety of topics covering parenting, child behaviours and mindfulness. As well as ensuring the wellbeing of all guests with a nutritionist on site to advise on exercise, healthy eating and the ability to tailor individual menus – truly ensuring the holistic wellbeing of body and mind of all guests.

Meliá Hotels International and Gioele bring fun, colour and the mix of Spanish and Mediterranean flavour into their hospitality and culture. Their bleisure environment gives guests an opportunity to be inspired by the creative, mindful hospitality and the opportunity to experience the various joys of the Mediterranean without having to leave the comfort of the UK.