The grandparents of Carmen were fruit catalans that emigrated to Venezuela in the post-war period. There, they rented a hotel in Barquisimeto, earned money and returned to Spain with the idea of opening a hotel on the Costa Brava. The mayor of your town had just been in Mallorca and I spoke wonders of the island and the caring that they were there with the tourists. “My grandfather caught a plane, went to Mallorca and the week she came back with the hotel purchased. In my family the decisions are blazingly fast,” he recalls.
Carmen Riu (Palma de Mallorca, 1955) leads the business in the blood. “The company was founded in 1953 and I was born in 1955. The early years, customers were in the rooms good and we lived in a basement. Working my parents and my grandparents. It was hard. Worked a lot, worked always, also Saturdays and Sundays, they had no free day, a week or 10 days of vacation a year,” he explains.
“it Was a hotel small, in the playa de Palma beach, and I was alone, in the middle of a magnificent site, but for me then was awful because I was bored as an oyster, a little girl there alone all winter. I've always thought that I was very good student because I had nothing else to do. The summers spent playing with the children of the clients. As were all German, I learned German playing and this has helped me a lot”, says Carmen Riu.
Now is ceo along with his brother, Luis Riu, the Riu group, the fourth-largest hotel group in Spain by number of rooms operated (more than 45,000), and by turnover, with more than 2,200 million euros of turnover. Riu controls 95 hotels and resorts in 19 countries. Even though you have dared to cities, the beach is your natural habitat: the Balearic islands, the Canary islands, the Caribbean, the Maldives, Zanzibar... Under his command, nearly 30,000 employees.
But between the basement of a hotel in Mallorca and the empire, which today manages many things have happened. Carmen Riu began to help her grandmother to prepare the breakfast tables of the small hotel of the playa de Palma at eight or nine years. When he turned 14, the legal age to work for then went on to work all the summers during the three months of the school holidays, at the reception, in the commissary...
they Reached the sixties, the tourist boom in the Balearic islands. “With what ganabas built the next hotel. My father tried not to go into debt. The only time you got into debt in order, years later, came the oil crisis and I remember how worried he was for being able to repay the loan”. Luis Riu, the father of Carmen, allied with the German tour operator, Dr. Tigges, who in 1968 became known as TUI, and his chain grew strongly in the archipelago.Luis Sevillano
Meanwhile, at the age of 16, Carmen was studying Economics at the Autónoma of Barcelona. In the faculty there were only four women out of 400 students. In the last two years of career he started working as a secretary in a firm of lawyers and economists, where he was offered a job as an economist at the end of the race. She liked the idea, but family pressure got the better and came back to Mallorca. “Now I don't regret, now I'm happy, but at the time it was hard for me, I had all my friends in Barcelona,” he confesses.
The “owner's daughter”
he Was 21 years old, and his father appointed her director of hotel in 1976. “I was very young, a woman and the daughter of the owner. It had everything against it. But I spent two years working and I think I did well, I leaned a lot on the computer I had.” Two years after he took charge as the staff director of the human resources of the group, which already by then had five hotels, and three years later took over the finances.
Carmen Riu is in fact the policy at the helm of a large company with more experience in Spain not only the tourism sector but for any sector. Has been a pioneer. In your home never had an education chauvinistic, he says, but in his career has in fact in front of things “not very pleasant”. “We talked about the prehistory and yes I found a situation, let's say, that today would not be acceptable,” he says. Meetings of entrepreneurs in the which made it of less. Hurtful comments.
With her to the front of finance, Riu made the leap out of the Balearic islands, in part by chance. Luis Riu was going to buy a plot of land in the north of Mallorca, but at the last moment came someone who offered more money. “I remember the great disgust of my father. And, however, the next day or the other, we were offered a plot of land in Gran Canaria. We said, come, let's take the leap, and we went and bought it, it was all very quick”. Once more.
For her, the opening of this hotel, the hotel Riu Palmeras in 1985, still remembers with more affection. “It was out and it was a hotelazo, I loved it. When I remember my father, I always see it sitting on a terrace of the hotel the first few days with a face of pride and total happiness. And with my son over”.
“we Started to invest in the Canary islands and we realized the great advantage of working on a site where all year round you had customers. From there we had clear that, once you have finished our development of the Canary islands, we were going to go abroad in countries where we could keep open all year”, says Carmen Riu.
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When his father died, in 1998, Carmen Riu and his brother Louis took over the position of managing directors of the chain that remain. Share the management of the company. “I am the rear guard, and Luis is the cutting edge,” explains Carmen. Luis Riu leads the expansion, the construction of new hotels, commercial and operations, while Carmen takes care of finance, administration, information systems, legal side, insurance and corporate social responsibility.
it Is a cast of unusual, but that it has worked. Riu sees many advantages to the family business. “There is a culture of very strong, in our case the culture of the client. And always look at the long-term, not to the pitch”. The obsession of his father's, account, was that the opinion of the client, and invented a satisfaction survey to get statistics that still today are used in all hotels of the chain. According to Carmen Riu, that is the secret of the success of your chain. “My father on Sundays I would go to the hotels that we had picked up the paper slips in the polls and by Sunday afternoon I had me a secretary with a paper and putting palotes to post,” he recalls. That have been moved today to a reuunion monthly of the council, which analyzes hotel by hotel if there is any alarm signal (the quality of the kitchen to the reception). The wages variables Riu are tied to the happiness of the customers.
Carmen Riu speaks a lot of their parents, everything they taught him. Recognizes that the transition generation is a process “very delicate” in family businesses, for which Carmen and Luis have been preparing their children. “I don't know what will happen, but we have tried to create a breeding ground favorable. My brother and I have three children each. We live in separate houses, but next to each other, so that the cousins have been dealt with a lot from children, they have fought a lot. It is very important to fight and know each other as brothers and sisters. And have also defended and supported each other, in the school, for example. In addition, for a long time we have been having meetings with them to explain how he had left the company, what benefits we had, where we had grown up, in what we had wrong, how it had been corrected. And now hold themselves to these meetings, they come together every three months”.
Carmen Riu is aware that perpetuate a model like the one that kept her and her brother is complex, but expects to achieve a smooth transition. “To our children we have taught them to be owners, and they know from long ago that are only managers if they are better, And if not, they will just be owners. I would love to have that out well because we prepared a lot, the transitions are a long-term issue, so we've prepared with all the love and all the affection, and I think we have done well, but then life takes turns”.
The children of Carmen and Luis well known hotels, and have even been to kellys, cleaning rooms. “My son, as the eldest, was the first, who knew not, or what uniform to put. It was the first in Spain. In the rest of the world we do have maids [they] are gentlemen. I don't like to tell waiters, floor are maids men”, account.
By now, the Riu preclude the sale of the company, the entry of a financial partner or the ipo. “At least while we are Luis and I at the front we have absolutely no intention”. Nor are they designed changes in its agreement with UIC. She was counselor of the German group, a position now occupied by his son John. Admits that the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook's main rival TUI, is concerned in the world of tourism. The only thing good out of this tragedy, he says, is that the sector realizes that it has to get yet more batteries. “Not only the small break,” he recalls. The action TUI have fallen and not spend your time more buoyant. “But you have a powerful business in hotels and cruises and takes time doing homework and betting also by the business of online bookings”, he argues.
Another open front is the pending judgment of Luis Riu in Miami, accused of offering luxury vacation in hotels and vip treatment to expedite the works and permissions from the hotel Riu Plaza in South Beach. “We're waiting for is the trial” is limited to say your sister.
After 56 years of catering holiday, Luis and Carmen take on the challenge of making the step to the urban hotels. And it was, in part, a result of chance. “Sometimes it seems that the decisions in business are well-designed and very analyzed. In reality, Luis went to Panama to find a piece of land for a beach hotel and I remember I said: ‘Look, I have the terrain, the beach, very nice, but I also have another idea because I was in the city of Panama and had no place to sleep, it was all llenísimo, a little more and I'm on the street. And I thought that here are missing beds. And more now with the expansion of the canal, so I've been looking for the city and I have found a fantastic plot. What do we do?’, I said. I rely highly on Luis and said to him, come, okay, let's test by logging. And it was fine. We Opened Guadalajara [Mexico], Berlin, Dublin, New York, Miami. And now we are with Toronto, with London and the second in New York and with this”.
“This” is the Riu Plaza Spain, in the emblematic Edificio España, at the foot of the Gran Vía, where it develops the interview. A hotel of more than 550 rooms whose gem is a rooftop terrace from which it dominates the sky of Madrid and Carmen Riu poses for photographs longer than you would like.
“We learned that a spaniard was going to buy the building and that was looking for people to manage a hotel. And we introduced ourselves to the lord Casanova, we came to an agreement and we were thrilled. But a few days before to materialize the purchase came and told us that they were not going to buy because they had no money. I remember that he said to us: ‘If you will...’. And we had hours to decide, but as we are so accustomed to what we decided very fast, in half an hour or one thing like that. Said forward, thrown away. The truth is that I was a little scared, but now I am very happy”.
The new hotel it has been a success. “We have been surprised very much the success that it has had, especially in the beginning because it caught us completely unprepared. Ideally, when opening a hotel is that it fills gradually, the computer gets used, you can keep adjusting things little by little, but if a week is already have the hotel almost full, it is a little chaotic, and at the beginning we suffered a lot. Then the hotel was taking its dynamics”. To the Riu, the reverse side of success is the fame. “We did not expect the notoriety that has given us this hotel, in that we are very naive. We liked to be there, escondiditos, and we knew no one, and suddenly we're in the mouth of all. If you talk to the lords of trade will say that it is fantastic, but from the point of view, private we were very comfortable before.”
Vacation by the sea
the terrace of The hotel Riu Plaza of Spain is full of curious when Carmen Riu is taking the photographs for the interview. And that's despite the fact that the day is overcast and somewhat cool. The terrace, with a 360-degree views of Madrid, is a magnet for tourists, who queue to go up. And what does a hotel of the stature of the Riu palace vacations? Do you go as a tourist to a hotel of their own or the competition? “No, No, No. I have a boat weenies. I climb the velerito and I am the happiest woman in the world. My brother Luis, by contrast, you go to a hotel of Riu! I could not. I would be thinking about what to say to that client, or why the waiter has not cared for... Imagine the manager of that hotel. It would be uncomfortable for all. I Luis will say: 'How do you do it?'. And I respond: 'Well, the first two days the workers I we we have to adapt. And there comes a time when we have already adapted all”.Updated Date: 12 January 2020, 18:01