In a country that has been mostly known for its sun and beaches for years, it is not casual that the hotel industry is one of its international foundations.The internationalization of Spanish hotel companies has undergone a process of expansion in the last years, exploiting their knowledge in the sector, throughout the world.

Successful cases of internationalisation

Meliá Hotels International is a remarkable example of international success, as it is present in over 35 countries, betting on urban and holiday segments. With regards to resorts, Barceló Hotels & Resorts, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts or Riu Hotels & Resorts, being present in more exotic destinations, are the best instances. In terms of urban destinations, NH Hoteles, AC Hoteles or Room Mate are predominant.

They started these international ventures either by themselves or together with an international partner. AC, for example, has developed a partnership with a the US hotel company Marriot; Meliá Hotels Internationalis growing in China thanks to its partnership with tourism and real estate companies such as Jin Jiang and Greenland Group.

Other smaller businesses such as SandosHoteles, Occidental Hoteles, GrupoPiñero, or Axel Hoteleshave also decided to internationalize their operations showing that size is not an important variable to go abroad. Small hospitality businesses have much to say in this sense, even if they don’t always count on the necessary resources to venture into this international project.

La internacionalización de los hoteles españoles

For those reasons, initiatives like the Feria Internacional de Turismo (FITUR)  are fundamental, as they drive internationalization processes through different activities in order to help businesses belonging to the tourism sector such as hotels. FITUR has held the 18thIbero-American Conference of Tourism Ministers and Entrepreneurs (CIMET), where collaboration agreements between Spanish firms and Ibero-American destinations have been promoted.

Particularly at this event, a special tribute was paid to Luis and Carmen Riu for the contribution to tourism of the company they have shares in and for their relationship with Latin America. Besides this, FITUR has promoted different activities such as Fitur Know how and Export to provide advice on the touristic activity internationalization and on the choice of countries.

These activities are carried out by experts belonging to the Spanish Foreign Trade Institute (ICEX), the Public Corporation for Innovation and Tourist Technology Management (SEGITTUR) and other institutions and businesses within the sector.

All the issues discussed and presented in these gatherings are key, because they are linked to two of the most important decisions in international strategy.


How to internationalize?

Among the alternatives Spanish hotel companies have used to make this growth possible are the following: direct investment, with total or partial control, through creation or acquisition, or contractual agreements such as renting, franchising or management contract – even if direct investment was the most commonly chosen formula, currently the less risky and most popular formula is franchising.

Where to internationalize?

In terms of locations, the Spanish hotel industry is especially present in Caribbean destinations, due to its experience in holiday tourism and its cultural link with Latin America. This offer has been complemented with hotels in urban areas in the main European cities. In any case, there is a clear trend to explore new emerging countries.

Now they have a challenge to operate in further away regions such as Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, where cultural and regulative differences are bigger but where they can find multiple growth opportunities.


The successful work of the Spanish hotel sector in its international activities throughout history is undoubtedly remarkable. However, Spanish hotel companies are not making great efforts to be a benchmark in the international scale.





Public Corporation for Innovation and Tourist Technology Management