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Transcript: Travel Agent Interviews Iberostar Hotels & Resorts' Luis Herault

After attending the press conference announcing Antonio Banderas as the new face of Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, Travel Agent took the opportunity to meet with Luis Herault, the company's CMO. Listen in on the interview in the accompanying podcast, and read along, word for word, in the transcript below.

Travel Agent: Why Antonio Banderas? What made everyone the room say 'this is our guy'?

Luis Herault: We have covered the full process step-by-step. First of all, what we did is that we have in-depth research regards of the consumer and our client. We wanted to understand their behavior, their motivations and anything that they were interested about. After this process, what we have done is determined our communication territory. We decided that everything that was in regards of our consumer and how we treat our consumer properly and in regards of enjoying was our territory. Then we decided our tone. We wanted to have a tone that was full of passion and which is full of proximity with people. Then we worked on our claim, which is "we are all stars." 

The communication of all of this took us to think that we need a real star because it makes sense that, once you have covered all of this process, that you really think about someone that can bring this message. I decided I needed a celebrity to make it rounded. To decide Antonio Banderas, we again decided on a process.

First of all, we came back again to consumers. I need to work with someone that is close to our consumers' hobbies. My consumers (the ones that are around), they like cinema, they like music, and Antonio is in cinema and music. I want someone that really relates to what I am, naturally. Antonio is someone who is full of passion and full of proximity. And finally, I wanted someone that is really an international star— someone that is well known and recognized in Europe and in America. If you add all of these combinations, you have Antonio Banderas. That was the process. I decided then that I wanted Antonio Banderas to work with us, and we have luckily reached an agreement.

Travel Agent: When you contacted him, what was the selling point? Was it hard to bring him in?

Luis Herault: I explained all this process to them because I like to approach everything professionally. I have a lot of respect with regards of his own brand because Antonio has a brand. So I did approach this with my brand thinking towards his brand and why was this a good deal for him and for us? And this was the way. So I just came with the managers in Spain first and I told them I think I have an interesting business for me and for you and I think this is good for your brand.

Travel Agent: Is there an expected launch date for the new Iberostar property in Litibu (Riviera Nayarit) that was mentioned in the press conference?

Luis Herault: We would like to do it in the next, let's say, year and a half. Let's see if we can do it. We have already started it and we stopped it because of the [swine flu] crisis and so on. And now we want to push on it because we have tour operators that are asking about that, in the States and in Canada. It is a destination that is really interesting so, for us, it is complementary because it covers a full area of the state that is closer to this area and to the Caribbean. So we are really looking forward to making it happen as soon as possible.

Travel Agent: 35 percent of your customers are return customers. Before the campaign with Antonio, what do you believe drew them to the Iberostar brand and, now that Antonio is a part of it, do you think there is something that will continue to draw them as well as new customers in?

Luis Herault: My expectation is that Antonio should help us to increase our notoriety and our awareness as a brand. I am looking for a consumer that has decided that once they have decided to go on holidays that their second decision is "I want to go to Iberostar," and do it at the end of the day when he is going to the travel agent  or is in front of several options. So what I am looking for is a consumer that goes into a travel agent and decides, "I want to go to Iberostar." This should happen in a process that first you have to have someone who is recognized, as the first step, and you have to have a clear proposition and an interesting one. This is what I am looking for because Antonio is our celebrity but I do have, on top of Antonio, a clear message that "on holidays, we are all stars,"- which is really what I want people to recall. So Antonio, I want him to help me to make this clear, that "you are my star and I am going to treat you as a star."

Travel Agent: Can you touch a little bit on the charitable and humanitarian work that you guys do that really drew Antonio to [the brand]? He touched upon it in the press conference. Can you elaborate on the commitment to Mexico after swine flu and anything else that would be a good complement to the things that Antonio is doing as an humane ambassador?

Luis Herault: This has been another angle on top of all the ones that I have already shared with you on why he has decided to work with us. I think that we also share this way of approaching life and it is something for us that is critical and he has already started the journey, so it's not that he wants to start now. We are all ready on different projects. The truth is that, as part of the agreement, and it was his decision, that he wants to be really involved in our projects and we're really looking forward to making it happen.

Travel Agent: From a travel agent perspective, are there any programs that your company has now or is planning in the future that, if an agent doesn't know about, you think it would be good for them to tap into in order to better sell the Iberostar brand?

Luis Herault: For me, travel agents are my target as well as consumers. The way I approach these campaigns, it is for all of them. So my expectation is that these campaigns, this strategy, should make it much clearer: what are we selling? My expectation is that this helps and then encourages them to have more preference for my brand and we will keep on doing what we have been doing in the past because we will maintain our strategy on behalf of trade marketing, which is marketing to travel agents. We have not taken any resource from this channel to make this happen. This is on top of everything. This is an example of how important they are for us.

Another point is that, I don't know if you have seen it but, in the campaign, the TV commercial, and as well as in outdoors, we are signing with our page and as well as with the travel agent. So we are telling consumers that [they're] the ones who have to decide, so it's not that we are forcing that. We think of them and we expect that they will be more interested even in selling our brand.

Travel Agent: In addition to the property in Litibu, are their any others that are on your radar that you wouldn't mind sharing, whether it's five or 10 years from now, so that agents can get excited and say "I have a client who wants to go here. I can't wait to tell them that Iberostar may have a property there?"

Luis Herault: We have other projects but this is not really the reason I expect them to keep on selling our product. I expect them to sell what we already have, which is a lot. I think that we have hotels in so many different destinations that we can truly cover any expectation. We do have plans, apart from Litibu, and have ideas of growing in places that we still are on, like the Dominican [Republic] for instance. I think my expectation is that we have already a quite comprehensive portfolio that can fulfill any need.

Travel Agent: Whether to an agent or to a consumer, what are the five best selling points to say to anyone?

Luis Herault: I normally think of three, but I will try to look for five. First of all, it's the way you are going to be treated because, for us, our customers. our clients are our stars. Second, it is all about food— all the interest we put into in regards of what you eat and our restaurants and the quality of everything that you can find. Third, it is all about animation. We do have theaters that do we invest a lot of time and effort into having the best shows. They are all home made. We cover all of them. On top of that we are in the best beaches in the world and we have anything that you'll need in the place where you are.

Travel Agent: In the era of green travel and eco-friendliess, can you touch on any sustainable operations or green-friendly practices that Iberostar does?

Luis Herault: We do have in Cozumel a hotel that already has covered the [LEED] certification. And we are looking for how we can leverage on that to improve overall our chain. That's something that I have in my mind that I will puruse in the next few years.

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