Hottest Hoteliers: Mr. Luis Riu
You read the reviews, listen to the praises from friends and colleagues, or happen to catch one of your favorite celebrities exiting that very luxury hotel you’ve been meaning to check out.
You know what the folks on the outside are saying, but have you ever gotten the story from someone on the inside?
journeyPod goes behind-the-scenes in Hottest Hoteliers with some of the country’s most esteemed, critically-acclaimed, award-winning hospitality masterminds to get the real scoop!
RIU Hotels & Resorts was founded in November of 1953 in the beautiful Balearic Island of Mallorca. Over the years, the Riu family has made it their goal to offer upscale services and amenities ,so that guests leave with happy memories and a strong desire to revisit. Luis Riu, along with his sister Carmen, have expanded this upscale hotel chain to 16 countries including the U.S., Bahamas, Mexico, Portugal and Morocco.
journeyPod had the chance to catch up with Mr. Luis Riu, during the opening of his new hotel, the RIU Palace Pacifico in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.
RIU has given the “All-inclusive” a very luxury feel with state-of-the-art amenities, superior service and breathtaking locations. Tell us a little about the history of RIU Hotels & Resorts!
RIU Hotels & Resorts was founded by my grandfather, Juan Riu, in 1953 when the family bought a little 80 bed hotel in Playa de Palma in Mallorca (the Balearic Islands, Spain). Since then, the company has always been managed by the family, nowadays, being my sister, Carmen, and I the CEOs.
After a long period of expansion in Spain, we decided to extend our business to the Caribbean area. In 1991 we opened our first international hotel. It was the Riu Taino located in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Because of our constant re-investment of profits in the acquisition of land, construction and refurbishment of the existent hotels, RIU has had an spectacular growth and now operates over 100 hotels world-wide with 29 hotels in the Americas region.
Our grandfather first and my father after him taught us that the guest is always the prioritory and that our goal has to be to create unforgettable memories and a desire to revisit our hotels, all of which is attained by the personalized service, cordiality and attention to detail. To provide a service with heart is the key of our philosophy. The company is named after the family and the RIU logo guarantees a high standard of facilities and service in all the hotels around the world.
Two of your resorts in Mexico recently received the prestigious AAA Four Diamond rating, congratulations! What are some of the other awards that RIU has received over the years?
The most important point in being awarded is not to forget “why” you got the award.
An award means a compromise towards those people that voted for you. You have to show them that their decision of trusting RIU was correct. This means a compromise to even work harder to justify their trust, and never ever relax and fall in indulgency.
In 2008 we received 8 Golden Apple awards from Apple Vacations and the Riu Palace Aruba was awarded with the Crystal Apple as “best staff & service” resort in the Caribbean.
Canadian travel agents (Thomas Cook Canada) voted Riu Hotels & Resorts as “customer favorite” for the fifth time in a row and as “best group sales-hotel chain”. Furthermore 11 hotels received the Thomson Gold medal awards for outstanding sales. The Riu Palace Punta Cana was awarded as the “Outstanding customer service”.
Riu Hotels & Resorts was ranked number one among hotel chains in Mexico by number of room nights booked on Expedia and hotels.com branded sites worldwide in 2007.
The Riu Palace Las Americas, the Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas and the Riu Caribe ranked in the top ten all inclusive resorts in Mexico for gross number of room nights sold last year.
The readers of Travel Bulletin, one of UK´s leading travel trade publications, awarded Riu Hotels & Resorts “Star hotel chain of the year”.
The nº 1 publication in Belgium, Travel magazine, awarded Riu for the 6th time in a row as “best hotel chain of the year”.
We appreciate the fact that RIU gets final consumer awards as well as travel trade ones. It makes us understand that we are on the right track.
What are the three product lines of RIU and how do they cater to different travellers?
RIU offers three hotel categories: RIU ClubHotel, RIU Classic and RIU Palace and only two of them (Palace and Classic) are commercialized in the Americas and Caribbean markets of origin.
The RIU Classic resorts are the favorite for family vacations. In Mexico and the Caribbean all the hotels under the Classic product line are 5-star beachfront properties especially well-known for RIU’s attentive service. assic hotels offer stylish public spaces, multiple restaurants and bars, and an extensive array of entertainment options, all of them in an all-inclusive basis. (In Europe most of them are half board)
On the other hand RIU Palace is the luxury level of RIU resorts which are orientated to a higher market, being honeymooners and couples in romantic getaways the main type of guest. All of the Riu Palace hotels have beachfront locations, elegant palacial architecture, sophisticated decor and the most extensive range of fine cuisine of all RIU hotels. But above all, its professional and attentive service is what really makes the difference.
Has RIU considered dabbling into other locations besides tropical destinations, ie, winter getaways for skiers or city hotels for business travelers?
Never say never. For the moment we want to consolidate our growth in the area in which we have a 55 years history and experience guiding us. But we are open to new projects and we are researching and studying a lot of options. Maybe we´ll surprise you in the near future.
With such a wonderful product line, it would be impossible not to attract celebrity guests. Could you kindly share with us a few of the big names that have stayed with you?
Our golden rule is not to talk about their visit to assure their privacy also for future visits.
Let me give you some examples that will surely not be problematic because the media did cover their visits. In the Sports Industry we have had the pleasure to host The Chicago Bears, Lennox Lewis, Ivan Zamorano and Don King. Musical guests have included Juanes and Sergio Dalma, Jessica from No Angels and B3. RIU Hotels and Resorts have also attracted politicians and members of government from all over the world.
What can we look forward to in the years ahead from RIU Hotels & Resorts?
A constant and continuos effort on realizing customers wishes and needs. We will expand in those areas Riu guests want to discover. In 2009 we will inaugurate our first resorts in Costa Rica, the Riu Guanacaste. We will continue creating new gastronomic offers and combinations, as we did this year with the introduction of a new specialty restaurant “Krystal”, offering the highest level of fusion cuisine.
And we will look for new trends. But all our expansions and new features will be strictly driven by our customers wishes and needs.
As a hotelier and expert in world travel, when not working, what is your favorite destination?
It might sound silly to you, but I like to stay in those areas where I am building hotels. There are maybe one or two places that I like a lot but where I do not yet have a hotel. South Africa and Asia have marvelous landscapes and beaches. I apologize not being more specific, but I don´t want to find too many Spanish hoteliers there before the first Riu is built!
Check out our podcast at the Renova Spa at the RIU Palace Pacifico in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico