Paradores: the challenges of an «Marca España» emblem

Paradores: the challenges of an «Marca España» emblem

This story starts on October 9, 1928, when Alfonso XIII inaugurated the first Parador de Turismo in the Sierra de Gredos, between Madrid and Ávila. The monarch was personally involved in the location to the point of cede a hunting lodge on his property to a project that had left the Government of José Canalejas in 1910, to provide Spain with a nonexistent hotel infrastructure. From this first opening, the following years were a career of inaugurations that has led to the recovery of unique buildings with an enviable monumental heritage. In the middle, the tragic parenthesis of the Civil War, the emergence of the 60s when it went from 40 to 83 paradores to the beat of the massive influx of foreign tourists, the Transition, Democracy and the impact of the recent recession.
Nine decades later, Paradores is still there,
 as a public company whose sole shareholder is the General Directorate of Assets.

King Alfonso XIII (second from the right) together with the Marqués de la Vega-Inclán precursor of Paradores

 In the words of Susana de la Rubia, general director of Paradores since the end of July and a great connoisseur of the firm, we are in
«A sweet moment, giving benefits to the rhythm of the current economic cycle». All this after overcoming the negative impact on employment and results that the crisis represented for this chain, but which has not seen the red numbers since 2015.

A for the millennials
At present, the chain has 96 stores in Spain and one, under franchise, in Portugal. Last year closed with profits after taxes of 17.6 million euros (0.12% more than in 2016) and operating income of 260.8 million, 5% more in homogeneous terms. During 2017, 1,475,000 people lodged in their rooms, of which 36% were foreigners. All this, says De la Rubia, who was also director of Tourism of the Principality of Asturias, betting "for a different, cultural tourism, in which the paradores are idyllic sites" and promoting new proposals around the Camino de Santiago, hiking or bird watching.

 Some initiatives that are in line with the will expressed this Tuesday from Chinchón (Madrid) by the Minister of Industry, Reyes Maroto, to re-launch the Paradores brand through the modernization of its offer or the
attracting more foreign tourism
 and of more young people. "We have to work hard to attract new young customers, take away the fright that the imposing beauty of places like the Parador de Santo Estevo (Orense) produces; we have to know how to tell those who visit us through booking or social networks that there are offers and possibilities to sleep in Santo Estevo, for example, "says the general director of the hotel chain mentioning as an example the
«Young getaway»
. In this line, De la Rubia recalls the historic loyalty program «Amigos de Paradores», which currently has 924,000 «friends». "There are clients who pride themselves on knowing dozens of hostels," says the executive.

Hostal Reyes Católicos de Santiago de Compostela passed to Paradores in the 80s

On the attraction of a greater number of foreign tourists, the general director of the firm remembers that
the proportion of foreign customers came to 45%
 several years ago and highlights the network of commercials that, at present, both from Madrid and in markets of special interest, such as Japan, the United Kingdom or Germany, sell to Paradores to tour operators from half the world. In this sense, he believes that the commitment of the Secretary of State for Tourism for another model beyond the sun and beach benefits them. "We also want to attract European tourism more linked to nature and culture," says De la Rubia, who confesses the hotel chain's interest in the Asian continent. "For example, the arrival of Koreans has increased by 25% – although they are still few – and when they visit Spain, they usually come to Paradores," he says. Regarding national tourism, De la Rubia notes that "before the Spanish traveled less" and now takes advantage of any festive bridge.

168 million euros in investments
Paradores plans to allocate – within an investment plan – 168 million euros between 2018 and 2021 to remodel establishments such as Jaén, Aiguablava (Gerona) or the Parador
Hostal de San Marcos in León, which was renovated for the first time since its opening in 1965. In addition to performances in bathrooms or the modernization of kitchens and cafeterias, for which it has its own team of decorators and architects. "People see in Paradores professionalism, human quality," says De la Rubia, who believes that the great hallmark of the company is human capital.

Current status of the rehabilitation works of the Parador Hostal San Marcos in León

In this regard, among other actions, the general director of Paradores reaffirms that at a time when the competition has returned from destinations such as Egypt or Turkey, the bet of Paradores is for the training of its staff in subjects such as online languages ​​(French or German) or, more specifically, for future heads of reception or establishment directors. In total, during the year 240 courses were given with 2,293 participants. At present, 4,464 people work with an average age of 46 years and an age in 57% of cases over 10 years. Specifically, 74.4% of the contracts were indefinite, according to the Sustainability Report of the public company corresponding to 2017.

The future: franchises and Portugal
Paradores, which depends on the Ministry of Tourism and specifically Turespaña, is responsible for the operation of the Paradores but not the choice of them, clarify from the company. However, at present, the public company is working along the lines of expanding via franchising in Portugal where it already has an establishment and studies "with great prudence" proposals from more distant places. "The Portuguese franchisee works very well and we have seen the increase of Portuguese tourism rates to border paradores," says Susana de la Rubia. For the moment, from Paradores they are waiting to receive the management of the accommodation that will be installed next to the medieval Monastery of Veruela (Zaragoza), which De la Rubia expects to open in the short term.

In addition, facing "the next two years maximum", he hopes to open a new hostel in Muxia, Galician town that suffered directly from the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige in November 2002.

View of the Parador de Baiona (Pontevedra)

Corporate events
Another source of income for Paradores, whose importance has not stopped growing, is business meetings. In this sense, according to De la Rubia, the establishment that most bills for this concept is that of
Calahorra (La Rioja)
. «Next to Calahorra is the Navarrese town of San Adrián, which has the largest concentration of canning companies in Spain and which the manager of the hostel convinced to see in our establishment the ideal place for meetings with clients and internal» , says the high executive of the hotel chain.

Cover on the inauguration in 1960 of a Parador in the mountains of Córdoba


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