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It’s not hospitality, it’s happitality

Kike Sarasola, president and founder of the Room Mate Group advocated the importance of questioning best practices when striving to have a successful and enduring business during his keynote speech at Hotco Budapest.

Kike Sarasola, president and founder of the Room Mate Group advocated the importance of questioning best practices when striving to have a successful and enduring business during his keynote speech at Hotco Budapest.

“The best way to conquer the future is creating it.”

According to Mr. Sarasola, our industry’s name should be associated with happiness, much rather than hospitals. But this linguistic nuance is just the beginning of what the Madrid born Spanish has to express about his perspective on hotels: his hotel chain Room Mate is the award-winning and tangible proof of his passion and insights.

Currently Room Mate counts 22 hotels, of which each one has a particular first name and character, representing a friend living in the respective city. The best reason to travel is visiting friends, states Kike Sarasola, and being accommodated by them feels very close to being home.

“What do I like and what do I need in a hotel?”

The answers are simple: a bed, a bathroom and breakfast. All the Room Mate hotels are designed around exactly these three basic pillars which are a given for every new hotel that is added. Room Mate has plans to add 15 hotels comprising 1500 rooms.

“We have seen many lifestyle brands come and go. The thing is, that lifestyles change, which is why Room Mate aims at offering a product that will not fade away with time.” argues Mr. Sarasola.

He is convinced that a company has to have a soul in order to succeed in the long-run and to be different – which is mainly conveyed by the employees. Fostering an atmosphere in which the guests are encouraged to articulate their desires and wishes comes from the openness of employees.

Big data is more accessible than ever before, giving hoteliers the keys to unravel more and more information about guest. The challenge is finding employees who are able to create a connection to guests by leveraging the available data – if this happens, guests are happy and thus more profitable.

Another exceptional service

Room Mate supports the apartment rental website Be Mate. Similar to AirBnB, guests who prefer to stay in an apartment get to scroll through pictures and reviews of other users. Contrary to AirBnB, Be Mate targets people who are older than the average 28 year old AirBnB guest and distinguishes its service by actively taking part in the apartment management, providing technical solutions for revenue and distribution management and with a strong corporate focus.

Since serviced apartments are highly demanded these days, Kike Sarasola is convinced that offering both hotel rooms and apartments over the same website is helping to develop customer loyalty.

One day, a guest might be on a business trip where she stays in a hotel, then, a few months later she might take her family on holiday where an apartment with its privacy and spacious outlines is preferable. If a company offers both options, there is no threat of cannibalisation, as one might think. Since operating Be Mate, neither RevPar nor occupancy of the Room Mate hotels has suffered although the apartment service is mainly available in cities which are served by the hotels too.

EHL’s Corporate Strategy course

Looking at both Room Mate and Be Mate’s products with the concepts taught to students in EHL’s Corporate Strategy course, it gets evident that Kike Sarasola follows a resource-based view, also known as emerging strategy, since the development follows the competences that are particularly well developed. Sarasola nevertheless does not fail to recognize, that the industry players should help each other up, thus encouraging his peers to copy things which are leading to a superior performance in competitors’ operations.

Openly advertising both the hotels and apartment rentals has not been seen often yet, thereby representing the tapping into a for now uncontested market space.

Listening to this key note address was definitely a very inspiring experience, since it went straight to the heart. Kike Sarasola revealed passion, dedication and ambition which reach much further than his own companies, that often seems to be forgotten in the busy day to day professional life of hoteliers.

Author: Annina von Falkenstein, EHL Bachelor student

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