Phocuswright Europe 2020 preview: Out of Office with… Raúl González

Raúl González, Barcelo Hotel Group

Raúl González is CEO EMEA of Spain-based Barcelo Hotel Group. He is also president, CEO or administrator of more than 50 subsidiary companies of the Barcelo Group and associates.

In a series of interviews with executives participating in the online event in September, PhocusWire finds out what they have learned from the COVID-19 crisis.

Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to the start of the coronavirus crisis, what would you do differently?

I am very proud of how the organization has reacted together to face this historic challenge. We have orchestrated a quick and coordinated response in record time, making some radical decisions in a very short period of time. In this sense I have nothing but praise for how we have reacted as a team, taking care of our employees, our guests and partners – and ensuring at the same time the long-term financial viability of the group.

As a result of a hard-working period during lockdown, we are now retaking our business with one of the best hygiene and safety programs within the sector, an improved website to boost sales through our direct channel and a resilient team ready to do what we best know: making our guests happy.

What could I have done differently? 

I am aware that we have been constrained by our structure when implementing some decisions. We have an agile structure oriented to decision making, with a distinct decentralized character and independent business units. In a crisis like this it, a centralized structure could have been helpful to implement certain decisions, but I don’t believe it compensates us.

If we went back, the only thing I would do differently is to have accelerated certain processes of digital transformation that were already underway in the organization.


Barcelo Hotel Group


What have you learned from this time about the way you’ll manage and communicate with your team moving forward?

It has been key to communicate from serenity. More than learning something new, this situation has strengthened my convictions. I have reinforced my idea of maintaining constant and transparent communication, even to explain the uncertainty and lack of answers, always with serenity.

What do you miss the most about travel?

I miss having direct contact with the whole team and not just with the person I meet. Traveling allows me to visit our hotels and having contact with the team first-hand. Traveling gives me more human contact, more interaction and greater insights. This is so valuable to me as the meeting I am attending. In fact, as soon as I could, I went back to visiting the hotels and teams.

What have been the surprise benefits to not traveling?

Time, without a doubt. Time to read, to investigate, to analyze in depth, which has been key to develop the responses in this situation of ever-changing uncertainty. Time to spend with my wife at home, enjoying our meals together and sharing the same workspace.

What lasting changes will there be to you personally from this time?

I have learned that the most uncertain scenario, the one you normally rule out because of its low probability, is now likely.

What’s been your one guilty pleasure during lockdown?

I have found that I love to work barefoot and reflect while walking in the garden.

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