Interview of our Managing Director, Rebeca González, by EL MUNDO
"Majorca is a first-level technological incubator for international tourism"
We made an appointment to interview Rebeca Gonzalez just before the announcement of the World Travel Award, but she was relaxed, with clear ideas about her firm. While I was acquainting myself with the interview, several people insisted on the technological excellence of Roiback, a fact the managing director confirmed during the interview. Furthermore, this Andalusian who has been working in Majorca for more than a decade declares that she feels at home in the island, integrated at a personal level, and privileged at a professional level. “If you are going to work in the tourism sector, where else?”
How do you feel as head of the best European provider in its sector?
Fabulous! This award is voted by both professionals of the sector and the public that knows the firm, so it has an undeniable value. In fact, it is considered one of the most valuable awards of the sector. Receiving this boost is really motivating for a young firm like ours.
How does a managing director build her career?
In my case, I worked in different projects in the tourism sector before getting my current position. I started managing the area of groups and circuits of Barcelo Group for Spain and Morocco in the 91, in Malaga. Later on, the main part of my professional growth has taken place at what is now Hotelbeds group, where I have worked, among many others, as Hiring Manager. This has allowed me to get to know the hotel distribution. I also worked as Product Manager at Laterooms, which allowed me to discover the online marketing and its peculiarities. I have worked in the United States and Asia, I have developed all type of tools, I have known the final client's feedback at first hand... The fact is that the combination of all that knowledge has given me a wide and very complete perspective of the sector. Then, when Hotelbeds acquired Roiback and I joined the team as a counsellor (I am talking about March 2014), I got interested in the project, as I think both internationalisation and the growth of small business are my areas of specialisation. A year later, I was designated General Manager.
Roiback is just 6 years old: how have you developed your career in the company?
The start up was founded in 2010 by the Vich family, formed by Majorcan hotel managers who created a successful booking engine. In fact, when I started working in the company I found an already excellent product. I think that is partly due to the maturity of the sector in Majorca: hoteliers here have a lot of experience, and as the ideas and needs of the sector in the island are complex and at the forefront of development, the product was totally exportable. In fact, Roiback had already contemplated every possible need of other countries. Thus, our aim was a double challenge: the internationalisation and the professionalization of the firm, which included recruiting talent and the creation of a young, creative managing team born and specialised in the technological world. At the same time, this team had to be able to work shoulder-to-shoulder with more experienced people who contributed with deep knowledge about financial aspects and business managing. And that is what we did.
How do you choose the fronts in which you are going to apply an internationalisation process such as yours?
We did a prior analysis to see in which countries we should grow. Some factors were more decisive than others: for example, we analysed if the target of medium chains and independent hotels was present there, as they are the most potential profiles for direct sale. In addition, we analysed their presence on the Internet and the digital transactions in the country. Now we are present in Asia (Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia), in Middle East (especially in Dubai) and in Latin America (we have a hub in Colombia with which we also cover Mexico). Regarding Europe, we are present in the natural destination of Lisboa and in Italy. This does not imply that all these destinations are the same, or that in this areas we can work in the same way. For example, Asia is very different from Europe, but each of its countries has special features: Japan, Thailand or Korea differ a lot from one to another. Our main aim was to test our product, which proved to be exportable there; and then, to organise the structure, to choose the profiles, etc. It is true that the fact that I knew Singapore was decisive, but also that I worked with people who knew the Asian market very well, which is essential. And with local people I already knew, of course! By the way, the business in the Asian region is now led by a Majorcan born in Inca working in Bangkok.
Which things do you do well?
We are really good at the creation of web pages, because we understand that design and usability have to go hand-in-hand. We know how to position a hotel's brand. Our booking engine is at an excellent level, we probably have the best conversion of the market. We know the users, we know what they are looking for, we know how to guide them to make sales. We are technologically very advanced. And we work with state-of-the-art programming languages which are not used in Majorca by anybody else. The adaptation to new technological tendencies is one of our keys. We believe in evolution and flexibility. However, I want to insist that Majorca is a really mature destination at a both tourist and hotel level. Roiback's business is relatively new, and that is why there is room for growth, but if you look at Majorca's technological level you will see that it is really high. The fact that the greatest chains have grown here has been a clear advantage for us, as a complete technological world has been created around them. And what's more: I would dare to say that Majorca is today a technological hub, a first-level incubator. In this case, the challenge is to keep recruiting and bringing professional talent to the island, as the dimensions of the island are always a slight disadvantage in this sense.
Does Majorcan future hinge on growing as generators and not only as a destination?
That is what I think, and it is perfectly possible.
Will hotels' direct sale be the most important one in the sector? I am aware that there are strongly marked and different profiles in this sense...
Of course, that is relative. Today, direct sale ranges from the 3% in a holiday destination to a 15% in another sector. Direct sale is the priority in some strategies, but not in others. Hotel chains have important guaranty agreements with tour operators they barely need; but in some cases, direct sale is essential. In addition, it is always more interesting for the hotelier. We try that hotels increase direct sale, but always controlling the cost. It has to be the cheapest channel, the one that allows for the greatest control of the process, the product and the communication with the client. That is why I think it will continue growing and gaining prominence in the sector.
Which are Roiback's plans for the future?
We would like to get a growth of over the 30% for the next year and to become established in the markets where we are already present. We are not thinking in opening new markets, although if an opportunity comes we will not miss it. But above all else, I consider that Roiback has to advance every year in the technological sector: innovation is the most important part of our job. We have a lab of ideas where we analyse the tendencies of the market, the needs of the international client and the intuitions of our people.