CaixaBank Wants to Grow Its Tourism Business by 20%

11 December 2017 – Expansión

CaixaBank is stepping down on the accelerator in the tourism sector. The bank chaired by Jordi Gual has launched CaixaBank Hotels & Tourism, a specialist business line that is seeking to increase both the number of clients and the financing granted to the tourism sector, which has a global impact of 16% on Spain’s GDP. According to the entity, two out of every three hotels are already clients of CaixaBank, which has a market share of 63%.

The objective that the team of 30 professionals in the Hotels & Tourism team has set itself is to increase turnover by 20% during the first year of activity, accelerating both the number of new clients and the loan book.

CaixaBank Hotels & Tourism started to take shape in 2008 when a specialist team was established in the Balearic Islands. Now, that division has its own brand and a portfolio of more than 14,000 clients, from which it generates a turnover of €5 billion.

In 2016, the bank led by Gonzalo Gortázar granted loans worth €1.3 billion to the tourism sector. It plans to multiply that figure over the coming years with the launch of this specialist unit.

According to the Director-General of CaixaBank’s business, Juan Antonio Alcaraz, the challenge is to promote the modernisation of the existing hotel stock and to facilitate financing to business-people in the sector to enable them to buy hotel assets and undertake new build projects.

CaixaBank is not the only entity to launch a specific division for this sector. In 2014, Banco Sabadell launched Sabadell Negocio Turístico, a unit that has allowed it to increase its net investment balance at an annual rate of more than 10%.

According to Alcaraz, the 30 specialists working for CaixaBank’s new line of business, are located in those areas of the country that have the most tourist weighting to ensure proximity to clients and the provision of a personalised service. “We want to help businessmen in the sector maintain their position of global leadership”, said the executive, who emphasised that tourism “is one of the most strategic and important areas of the Spanish economy”.

According to CaixaBank’s research service, the direct and indirect contribution from tourism to GDP amounts to €119 billion, equivalent to 11.1% of the total. Nevertheless, if we add the spending that all of the players involved in the tourism sector make in other economic sectors, then the global impact reaches 16% of GDP, well above the European average, of 9.6%. More than 2.5 million people are employed in the sector.

Specialisation

CaixaBank Hotel & Tourism forms part of the bank’s corporate banking area, which has opted to launch several specialist lines of business to cater for economic sectors. For example, the entity has units dedicated to the real estate sector – fourteen centres – and the agrarian sector, with more than 900 AgroBank branches. It also has fourteen large business centres – one in each territory – business centres dedicated to dealing with businesses, self-employed people and professionals, and 106 company branches for other firms. It has also just launched CaixaBank Day One to deal with the specific needs of startups.

Spain is just a step away from overtaking France as the most popular destination in the world for tourist visits. Provided that the Catalan political situation does not intervene, forecasts suggest that this year could close with more than 84 million tourist visits.

Original story: Expansión (by S. Saborit)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Colau Closes 256 Tourist Apartments In 1 Month

11 August 2016 – Expansión

One month ago, the mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, announced the launch of an emergency plan against unlicensed tourist apartments in operation in the city. Since then, the Town Hall has ordered the closure of 256 flats in total; in 2015, 400 orders were issued during the whole of the year. Nevertheless, for the trade association Apartur, which represents legal suppliers (of tourist accommodation), that figure is insufficient, and so it has called for the municipal government to make more effort.

A month ago, the town hall reinforced the number of agents making on-site inspections or verifying offers advertised on the internet. The sanctioned owners will receive a court order requiring them to cease their activity and they must pay a fine of €30,000. If they reoffend, the amount of the fine will increase.

One of the initiatives that Colau had announced a year ago was that unlicensed homes that joined the program for homes to be used as social housing would not be sanctioned, but for the time being, no property has joined that plan.

The town hall has also continued to process the files that it opened against the platforms Airbnb and Homeaway one year ago for reporting unlicensed flats.

Over the next few weeks, both operators will receive notifications and must pay a fine of €60,000 each. If they reoffend, the sanctions may reach €600,000.

The trade association Apartur celebrated the municipal initiative, but stressed that it is still a long way from eradicating the illegal offer that exists in the city. It also questioned the moratorium underway, which is affecting both the opening of hotels and the granting of new licences for tourist apartments, given that it is making the eradication of this activity more difficult. Its commitment, it said, is to a “responsible”, “sustainable” and civic tourist model.

Web site and letters

The municipal government defended itself against the critics and said that proof that it is giving priority to this issue is the creation of a website that allows neighbours to report illegal tourist apartments. During the course of one month, it has received 375 notifications. It has also started to send 800,000 letters this week, in which it calls on citizens to “collaborate”.

Nevertheless, the discomfort of several neighbourhood organisations against illegal tourist apartments is continuing to grow, and this summer it has extended further beyond the centre to reach neighbourhoods such as Poblenou.

Original story: Expansión (by David Casals)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Meridia Capital Considers Creating A Hotel Socimi

21 January 2016 – Expansión

The fourth investment fund that Meridia Capital is going to launch will specialise in the acquisition of urban hotels and may be a Listed Real Estate Investment Company (Socimi).

The founder and CEO of the fund manager headquartered in Barcelona, Javier Faus, said at a forum organised by Exceltur in advance of Fitur that “there is capacity in Spain to have three or four Socimis specialising in the hotel sector”. “And not only in the holiday segment”, said Faus, referring to the only pure hotel Socimi in operation in Spain at the moment, namely, Bay, which was created last year as the result of an alliance between Barceló and Hispania. Faus acknowledged that Meridia is currently analysing whether its fourth fund “could be a hotel Socimi”.

“The final decision still needs to be taken, and although that will not happen for a few months, it will be taken in 2016”, he said. The CEO of Meridia also said that the new vehicle will specialise in urban hotels, although the firm still needs to decide whether it will lease or manage these properties and whether or not it will build up a multi-brand portfolio, containing hotels from various chains. Faus added that he has not yet started talks with any hotel group.

Nevertheless, he is very clear about the location of the assets: Madrid and Barcelona, “although the fund may allocate between 15% and 20% of its resources to investment in other countries”, he added.

Investors

The strong interest in Spain from the international markets is helping the Spanish Socimis, which are consequently not facing much difficulty when it comes to raising capital. The urban hotel segment continues to be one of the most attractive, given the strong performance of the tourist sector in Barcelona and the significant recovery that the business sector is experiencing in Madrid.

In fact, experts in the real estate sector say that the biggest problem at the moment is finding assets available for sale, although in the hotel sector the willingness of the large hotel chains to sell buildings and continue leasing and managing them (sale & leaseback) may represent an opportunity for the Socimis, which for the most part, are looking for assets that they can lease.

This would be Meridia’s fourth fund and it may be created almost in parallel to the third, which is currently being established and which is focusing on investment in real estate assets in general. Faus expects that the third fund will raise capital amounting to €250 million, mainly from institutional funds in the US and Europe, but also from insurance companies. Together with bank financing, he expects that it will invest around €600 million.

The previous fund, Meridia II, invested €400 million between 2014 and 2015, of which €150 million came from investors and the rest from bank financing. The first fund launched by Faus, in 2007, was devoted entirely to the hotel sector, and as such the Socimi that he is considering creating now would not be new territory for him. That first fund acquired hotels outside of Spain, operated by a variety of hotel brands. They included the Hotel Ritz-Carlton and the Crowne Plaza in Santiago de Chile, the Four Seasons in México DF, the InterContinental in Sao Paulo and the Hotel W París Ópera, as well as a stake in three resorts in Thailand operated by Six Senses (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Y. Blanco and M. Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake