This fall has seen RIU Hotels & Resorts mark the 10-year anniversary of its Riu Plaza city brand, a welcome milestone for the company but one which it says hasn’t led to its losing sight of the types of properties that first put it on the tourism map.
The Riu Plaza brand debuted in Panama City and now has five properties in the Western Hemisphere, three in Europe and two more planned for North America. One of the upcoming hotels will be in Toronto.
But despite the growing urban presence, Riu says its interest in sun-vacation destinations isn’t waning, with Ricardo Luque, vice president of city business for Riu, noting the Mallorca-based firm began business in 1953 with a small beachside Mallorca hotel and beach vacations continue to account for the lion’s share of its business.
“For over 50 years we have specialized in holiday resorts and our core business will always be vacation resorts,” he says. “The company is very clear that it does not want to lose its essence. We want to grow our city business, but we will always grow at a higher pace our traditional hotels on the best beaches in the world. Our beach vacation specialization is so strong that after this first 10 years in the urban business we have realized that, even in city hotels, we perform better if we focus on a mix between business and leisure.
“We are very happy and very proud to be celebrating our 10th anniversary (of city hotels). Our goal was to have 10 hotels in the first 10 years and with the arrival to Canada we will soon have 11 properties in our (Plaza) portfolio. We invite our main partners, the travel agents, to visit our properties using their Riu Partner Club points or taking advantage of our special Amigo rates.”
Riu now has Riu Plaza properties in Miami Beach; New York; San Francisco; Guadalajara, Mexico; and Panama City.
Its three European Plaza properties are in Berlin, Dublin and Madrid. On the horizon are Toronto and London Plaza hotels, along with a fourth American hotel, which will also be its second hotel in New York.
Unsurprisingly, the main difference between the urban hotels and the resorts, Luque says, are the different type of settings the properties are found in, although Riu wants to ensure that those staying in a Plaza property can catch some rays during down time.
“We try to build hotels that are spacious in order to have large public areas, such as, for example, our lobbies. On the other hand, one of our main added values is the inclusion of the full buffet breakfast in the room rate. To be able to offer this service, we must have large restaurants with extensive buffets. In most of our Riu Plaza Hotels we also have swimming pools and terraces to offer our guests a space to relax and enjoy the nice weather and our service. Finally, in our city hotels, an executive customer who visits us for business finds all the facilities he needs — meeting rooms, business center, executive lounge, executive floor and much more.”
He adds that the company continually works to familiarize those in the industry with what it offers.
“Curiously, it is in the countries where we have better brand recognition that we must make the greatest efforts to educate our partners and introduce them to the differences between our product lines,” he says. “Specifically, our sales and marketing team must do special work with the MICE and business/corporate travel agencies segments. We think that in Canada, where we are well known, we will have to make an extra investment to present our Toronto property and those of the rest of the world.”
Luque states that Riu’s being in well-known cities generates additional and very important brand awareness.
“On the other hand, if these cities are located in the most important source markets for our beach destinations, in addition to achieving brand awareness, you can also consolidate sales,” he continues.” For many years, the Riu family wanted to test whether we were able to export our service and our product to the city. The inauguration of our Riu Plaza Panama hotel was in 2010. Our president wanted to have a hotel in New York, specifically in Times Square, and it was a few years later that that dream came true when we presented the Riu Plaza New York Times Square in 2016. Fortunately, Riu Plaza Hotels is having a lot of acceptance and in 2019 we ended with an average occupancy rate of more than 85%.”
The city hotels are hosting both leisure and business guests, with Luque stating that there can always be a reason to visit to a great city, such as those where Riu Plazas are found.
“It can be a romantic getaway, family vacation, conventions, business trips or even a combination of reasons,” he adds. “In most of the cases, our guests work during the day and relax and enjoy the city during the night. Our properties have well-appointed bars and restaurants, so they can always choose to stay in the hotel or go out and explore the cultural and gastronomic offers in the city.”
Meanwhile, Riu is moving closer to the opening of the downtown Toronto hotel, which Luque states will be in “one of the most important areas in the city. As part of the great advantages, our visitors will be very close to the Entertainment District and the Financial Area. This makes it ideal for international travellers, but also for Canadians visiting the city for business, pleasure or again, a combination of both.”
Luque reports that as of Nov. 1 all Riu properties will be open and “fully operational, following all the safety measures required.”
Riu has taken widespread measures to protect guests and staff from coronavirus.
“Being in key cities, your main market is the domestic one. For that reason, we are very lucky to have all our hotels open and running properly,” he says.