We are premiering the series of interviews with experts in the holiday sector, today with an emblematic person in the tourism sector, Roberto San Esteban. A specialist in tourist rentals and current president of the Association of Holiday Homes of Ibiza and Formentera (AVAT), Roberto shares with us his vision of the future, technology and the evolution of the tourism sector that he has seen in his career of more than 30 years.
Roberto San Esteban on the future of Vacation Rental: “It will be necessary to specialize and design somewhat different strategies for each type of product.”
Roberto, you are a national reference in this sector and we want to know how many years have you been working in the vacation rental and how did it all start?
In 1990 I started working as a consultant for the Leader Program, for the Axarquia in the province of Malaga and for the area of Valencia de Alcantara in Caceres. At the same time I started the first Rural Tourism Product Wholesaler of Rural Houses and Charming Hotels called CEREZA, belonging to the Minitours group and I continued with sporadic rural tourism consultancy work, especially with Ernst & Young on inland hotels in the Valencian Community.
With CEREZA for 6 years was made the first catalog of supply of Rural Houses of the peninsula and Balearic Islands and Hotels with charm at the same time of the creation of the different autonomic regulations concerning Rural Tourism. From there, after a lapse of 2 years managing CATAI TOURS programs for long destinations, I decided to look for quality of life and start a rental company in the Balearic Islands. At first in Mallorca, but I ended up doing it in Ibiza where I discovered a lot of market niches.
And in all these years, what would be the biggest changes you have seen in the industry?
Well, since 1997 when I started in Ibiza, I have been fighting for more than 14 years for the creation of a Balearic regulation for Tourist Housing, which did not exist. There were in most of the autonomous communities, but not in the Balearic Islands, mainly due to the refusal of the hoteliers. The first regulations were very basic and were neither complied with nor controlled, so that the quality level of the product offered had to be created and controlled by a few entrepreneurs, owners and marketers. From there to now being understood as a thriving business, quality and even luxury, with high occupancies throughout the season and or year with all the elements of improvement to include, decorations, different qualities, there has been a 180% turn.
One that in your opinion should be undone? Why?
Massification. For a product to have its essence, its qualities, its beauties, its charm, it must be something unique, different, special and not massified without character. Now anything goes, any type of accommodation, quality and price is introduced in the market. Only for money and profit.
What prediction do you have for the next 5 years, where do you think the vacation sector will go?
There are two variants in my opinion: the Sun-Beach and Rural and the Urban. The first two are merely a holiday product, whether on the beach, in sunny areas or with an environment of rural beauty and/or activities, the client is going to look for a cozy, comfortable place, mainly with a good quality-price ratio and for periods of time that vary according to their needs. In the cities, the type of client and the type of product is more about leaving suitcases and shopping bags, sleeping, showering and resting. Here what matters most is that it is centrally located and comfortable. If it has quality the better and if it has a good price too. It will always be analyzed comparatively to the prices of nearby hotels. It will be necessary to specialize and design somewhat different strategies for each type of product.
What will be the role of technology in this evolution?
It will be paramount. From direct bookings, via third parties, channel managers, OTA’s, cost controls, purchasing, sales and the maximum application of added services, which every day are more different and more complete, with an easy unification of them, it will be much easier for PMS, owners and end customers with the help of technology. Those of us who started with TELEFAX, all the technology options seem to me nowadays, if I compare it to a few years ago, like a teleport travel option from Ibiza to Tokyo in seconds.
What advice would you give to a property manager who is just starting out and wants to grow his business more efficiently?
Start small, control expenses, learn the different areas well and don’t want to rent a lot anyway. Do it well by controlling what you have in your hands.