Airbnb has changed the whole tourism sector. The public administration in many countries helps the hotels to protect their business and also the real estate market by ruling out strict conditions to rent apartments for temporal use. The Spanish hotel chain Room Mate has turned it around and created Be mate, a competition for Airbnb. Room Mate will have to the end of this year 30 hotels all over the world, mostly in international cities like New York or Istanbul. The concept is different to a classical hotel. For the moment they do not have restaurants, they just offer breakfast. They do not want to enter in the star category system, but range in price in the luxury hotel level.

Innovating the business with sharing economy

Be Mate Apartments is growing in a way that the founder of the chain, Kike Sarasola, would never have imagined. The turnover is already reaching six million euros in 2017, 40% of it comes from foreign tourists. talks to Pablo Gago, Senior Director of Global Sales & Marketing of Room Mate Group.

  • What are the expansion plans of the Group?
  • In general we want to be where we would love to have a house ourselves. But yeah, we are focusing on Italy, Holland, USA, Spain and France. But on a longterm we also want to be in Berlin and London. But since we have the condition that the ubication needs to very centric it is not so easy. In Germany you also have already very good city hotel chains. Another problem is that we also do not want to buy buildings, we just want to rent or manage them.

  • What is your philosophy?
  • We want to be local, concentrated on offering the best service in the centre without keeping the guest inside. We want them to go out, to learn about the city. Our staff is local and trained on giving their best advice as locals.

  • What is the suitcase of Kike?
  • Ah, this is a number of recommendation that he gives to the clients of each hotel. Things he like in that city or restaurants and bars. It is a kind of personalized Room Mate Travel guide.

  • Is it true that you want the tourist out of the hotel?
  • Yes, but not in a negative way. We want him to experience things that he later connects with us. In the hotel you cannot experience anything related to the city or culture normally. You can offer shops etc.. But we believe you should not be traveling if you just want to stay in your hotel room.

  • What is Be Mate? A new Airbnb?
  • Not really. It is just another offer for tourist that prefer to stay in their own “house” or appartment, but do no want to renounce their confort. They can order food, babysitter or all kind of other services. We are in that sense probably a Spanish Airbnb, in the sense that we offer the best tourist service with it. Airbnb is more directed to students and young travelers, we focus on premium guest. A night in a bmate is nearly as expensive as in the hotel.

  • Why you decided to launch Be mate?
  • We realized quickly that it made no sense to fight against this new competition in the market. We thought it was more intelligent to integrate it in our offer. That is what we did and other hotels are following our example.

  • Who can offer appartments on bmate?
  • It needs to be a certain standard and location, like with our hotels. Centric and a special design. Sometimes we also recommend changes in the decoration.

  • How does technology impact in all this?
  • For us the technology is a mean, but not the aim. We use technology to improve our service, but we do not want to replace persons. In Room Mate we believe deeply in a personalized and detailed client service. Therefore we are against robots in that sense.

    In general we analyse a lot of data to improve our revenues and in the case of bmate the revenue of our landlords. We also want to know more about our clients and their preferences.

  • You also work as a consultant in the sector, right?

  • Yes, we have our own distribution model and designs. Everything is very studied to increase revenues and customer satisfaction. We were pioneers with these kind of city hotels, and now with Be mate.

    About Pablo:

    Pablo Gago has been the Senior Director of Global Sales & Marketing of Room Mate since 2011. This is the international group which encompasses Room Mate Hotels, Be Mate (the innovative tourist housing company) and X-Perience (a consultancy with the Room Mate stamp and PwC collaboration).

    With more than 20 years of experience in several highly competitive markets, he has been focused in the development of sales and marketing strategies, new business and project design and team management.

    In the last three years, he started leading an ambitious project for the strategy, digitalization and innovation of Room Mate, resulting in great success in terms of revenue and branding awareness. His mantra: there is no costumer experience without employee experience. Putting people in the center of everything is the key of the transformation he leads in the international group.

    Pablo Gabo studied Economics at the Universidad CEU San Pablo and holds a Master Degree in Commercial Management and Marketing. He currently participates both in national and international conferences.