The Best Address

In Conversation with Raul Palomo

Raul Palomo is the General Manager of Hard Rock Hotel Madrid. He has extensive expertise in the hospitality industry, with a Master Certificate in Hospitality Management from Cornell University and a Degree in Business and Hospitality Management. Having spent more than 20 years with leading hospitality companies, such as Nobu Hotels and NH Hotel Group, a substantial part of his career was spent with Melia Hotels International, holding various positions including General Manager, Hotel & Operations Director, Sales & Marketing Director and Hotel Manager. In addition to a wealth of operational experience, Raul has an intuitive understanding of Germany, Hungary, Romania, Italy, China and Venezuela.

After joining Hard Rock International in June 2020, he opened the first managed hotel in Europe in the middle of the pandemic. A lot of challenges and two years later, Hard Rock Hotel Madrid has been ranked in the top ten list of the best hotels in Madrid by Tripadvisor travelers, in the 1st position for seven months in a row.

2020 and 2021 were challenging years for the hospitality industry. In your opinion, how will travel trends change in 2022?

Tourism faces a significant and evolving challenge due to the outbreak of Coronavirus COVID-19. Following the patterns of previous crises, the hospitality industry faced quarantine measures, travel bans, border closures and travel bans in 2020 and 2021. There was also a loss in overseas tourist revenues. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic cut millions of jobs in the travel and tourism industry. In addition, Covid-19 has suspended many practices of intangible cultural heritage with significant repercussions for communities around the world. It is difficult to estimate the pandemic in 2022, as we don’t know how it will develop. However, it is possible to talk about the new tourism trends that are likely to emerge over this year:

  • International travel with no restrictions
  • Reinforcement of Covid-19 tests
  • Conscious travel will be promoted. More distant destinations will be visited, but for longer periods of time.
  • Traveling sustainably. There is a growing problem of climate change. Consumers are much more aware of it now.
  • Ed-ventures. The goal is to combine education and holidays for the youngest members of the family. While adults may need to work remotely or attend meetings, their children can participate in workshops and learn in a playful manner.

When do you foresee a complete recovery of the hospitality industry business?

After the setback caused by the sixth wave and the subsequent barrage of cancellations, the Spanish tourism industry is expecting a recovery by Easter. The recovery of the sector in 2021 started late, specifically in May, due to the restrictions, but it gained momentum in the summer and the month of December clearly meant a closure due to the negative impact of Omicron. Employment in tourism, however, increased by almost 20 points compared to 2020, a reflection of the business’ commitment to reintegrating staff to recover normalcy.

What is your advice to aspiring hoteliers during challenging times?

My advice to hoteliers is to be hardworking, the harder you work, the more you learn. High intelligence is not as important as smartness.  If you don’t remain loyal to the company, people will not trust you. Make sure you can communicate to the company how you intend to move forward. Good leaders are charismatic and have good people skills, so that people are willing to follow them. Hiring smart and intelligent employees will help you create a superior quality work environment.

What makes Hard Rock Hotels stand out from other brands you’ve worked in?

Hard Rock lives by the company’s mottos – Love All-Serve All, Take Time To Be Kind, Save The Planet, and All Is One. Infusing the power of music into everything we do, wherever we are, we aim to improve lives, support communities and sustain the planet. Our mottos’ global values are embodied by more than 40,000 Hard Rock employees across 239 locations, which include owned or licensed Hotels, Casinos, Rock Shops® and Cafes in 68 different countries. Also during the pandemic, Our Safe + Sound program was developed by a team of hospitality and gaming experts in collaboration with global health and sanitation experts, such as Ecolab and NSF International and includes directives from a number of key agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States government. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Safe + Sound program emphasizes enhanced cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols. All Hard Rock properties are required to pass a 262-point inspection independently assessed by NSF International.

Was a career in hospitality something you always dreamt of?

 One of the best hotels in Asia, specifically in Hong Kong, was my first exposure to hospitality. The moment I sat in the lobby and observed the operation of this magnificent hotel, I knew that my future was in front of me. As I have gained experience in different countries and continents, along with my day-to-day learning, I have been able to firmly establish myself in this career that I have had for more than 30 years. Hospitality offers me everything I have always dreamed of in a profession. Creativity, interactions with people, travelling and above all, being part of an experience as beautiful as vacations or relaxation after a hard day at work.

What would you be if not a hotelier?

Sincerely, I have not considered any other career than a career in the hotel industry. I have, however, always been drawn to careers that are related to helping others, fostering cooperation, providing opportunities for experience and above all, being a part of a world without borders.

Which cities are your favourites for: 1) food 2) history 3) fashion

In terms of gastronomy, Madrid is my favorite city. All kinds of food can be found, along with all kinds of gastronomic experiences that only Spain can offer due to its extensive culinary culture. In recent years, the Madrid market has emerged as a benchmark for the European market because it offers a great deal of variety in all price ranges.

History of a city that is not in Spain is difficult to discuss. Here you can witness the mixture of cultures and colonizations of different peoples, as well as how they contributed to creating a country that is so different from north to south and from west to east. Outside of Spain, I would choose Berlin, where the history that is lived is very recent for all and at the same time very educational for the current generation.

A fashionable city for me and my family, without doubt, would be Milan. It is not in the streets designed for this purpose that fashion is lived, but rather in the shop windows of the streets themselves. In my opinion, sitting on a terrace and watching people walk is the best catwalk in the world.

You have worked in several cities, which is your favourite city for work and play?

 There will always be a special bond between me and two cities that have greatly influenced me. Shanghai, where anything is possible. Dynamism, speed, mix and at the same time culture merge to create this macro city in Asia

Berlin is the second city I feel very happy in. It is a mix of past, present, and most importantly, the future. History, culture, and the day-to-day challenges are greatly different. Europe’s most beautiful spring and Germany’s coziest winter.

When are you happiest?

When I feel my work impacts the satisfaction of my internal and external clients. I am happy when I see my team smiling and having confidence in the project that we are working on together. It is the business of my team that motivates me the most every day.

At work, which is your most challenging activity?

 Client satisfaction is my most challenging activity at work, which means exceeding each guest’s expectation while at the same time keeping the best team motivated to ensure quality is maintained throughout the customer journey.

Building the right team is crucial for a property’s success. What are the key skills you look for when hiring new employees?

 As a team leader, I always recommend having a team with a variety of key skills, such as professionalism, honesty and integrity. Innovative ideas, problem-solving skills and ambition are also important. Their job demands reliability and responsibility, as well as conflict resolution skills.

Which is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

The universe is full of stars, the land of living beings with emotions. Find out what will satisfy each the most, and work together to ensure that none of them are aimless shooting stars.

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