Skift Take

While this is a pairing that does make sense on some level — Apple wants to leverage NH's regional expertise — it's also an interesting one between a primarily all-inclusive hospitality expert and an urban hotel company.

A little over a month after Apple Leisure Group announced a merger with Mark Travel, the leisure travel giant is making more moves to expand its global business and reach.

The Newtown Square, Pennsylvania-based company announced Thursday it has entered into a strategic partnership with Madrid-based NH Hotel Group to jointly operate a number of beachfront resorts in Spain.

The alliance will bring Apple’s all-inclusive Secrets Resorts & Spas and Dream Resorts & Spas brands to Europe for the first time, as well as introduce a new brand, Amigo Hotels & Resorts that’s being marketed as a three-star, all-inclusive brand.

Apple’s AMResorts division will oversee management and sales of the hotels, while NH will maintain operational management. The first four hotels under the partnership are slated to open in 2019 in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, and Mallorca and they will all be conversions of existing properties.

European Expansion for AMResorts

This isn’t the first time that AMResorts and NH Hotel Group have worked together. In 2011, they partnered to open three resorts in the Dominican Republic.

NH Hotel Group is well established throughout Europe, with nearly 400 hotels in 30 different countries, many of which are located in major cities. AMResorts is known for its upscale all-inclusive resorts, many of which are located throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. It currently has 52 properties and has plans to open 20 more over the next few years.

For AMResorts, expanding into Europe, especially in Spain where there is strong demand and presence for beachfront all-inclusive resorts, is strategically important

“Spain is the gateway to the leisure segment in the Mediterranean Europe,” said Javier Coll, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Apple Leisure Group. “As the second most visited country in the world in 2017, the time was right to expand our footprint across the Atlantic Ocean and into Europe, beginning in Spain. Through this partnership, NH Hotel Group is helping us enter the most competitive and popular destinations in this country, as well as in the rest of the Mediterranean markets, such as Italy where NH has a strong presence.”

Coll added that by teaming up with a regional expert like NH, AMResorts stands to benefit in growing its all-inclusive brands in Europe.

At last year’s Skift Global Forum, Apple Leisure Group CEO Alex Zozaya expressed his plans for expanding his company’s all-inclusive brands outside of Mexico and the Caribbean.

The New Amigo Brand

The new brand AMResorts intends to introduce in Europe, Amigo Hotels & Resorts, was specially designed for the European market and is intended to cater to families and couples and offer a three-star all-inclusive experience.

“Travelers visiting Spain’s premier beach and leisure destinations are seeking the perfect combination of service, amenities and a cost-conscious price point – this is the sweet spot of the Amigo brand,” said Gonzalo del Peon, AMResorts president.

A Time of Change for Both Groups

Both Apple Leisure Group and NH Hotel Group are undergoing periods of transition. While Apple manages its merger with Mark Travel in a deal that is expected to close by the end of the second quarter, NH Hotel Group is dealing with issues of its own.

Those issues include fending off a bid from competing hotel giant and all-inclusive specialist Barcelo to buy NH Hotel Group, as well as dealing with one of its largest shareholders, HNA Group, who has initiated the formal process to sell off its 29.3 percent stake in the company.

Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which has been under pressure from the Chinese government to pay off its debts, has been selling a number of its hospitality-related investments, including its shares in Hilton, Hilton Grand Vacations, and Park Hotels & Resorts. HNA also owns Carlson Hotels, which is part of the Radisson Hotel Group, a joint partnership between Carlson and Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group.

In 2016, NH Hotel Group’s CEO, Federico Gonzalez Tejera was ousted along with members of the board over other board members’ fears that HNA’s then-pending purchase of Carlson was too much of a conflict of interest. Tejera has since been appointed CEO of Radisson Hotel Group.

If and when HNA does sell off its nearly 30-percent stake in NH Hotel Group, it remains to be seen whether NH Hotel Group will entertain other offers from other hospitality companies, and whether that will also impact the group’s partnership plans with Apple Leisure Group.

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Tags: all-inclusive, apple leisure group, nh hotel group, nh hotels

Photo credit: The Dreams Los Cabos Resort & Spa. Parent company Apple Leisure Group is bringing the all-inclusive resort brand to Europe with a new partnership with NH Hotels Group. Ian D. Keating / Flickr

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