More than 20 years of professional experience endorse Santiago Rivera’s expertise in the hotel industry. He started when he was very young and has held various positions of responsibility in four continents and seven countries, always in the Meliá chain, until he became Area Managing Director of Meliá Hotels International in the Dominican Republic, a position he holds today.
This accumulation of experiences and learning has given him a global vision of the concept of luxury hospitality, and has helped him to develop a great capacity to adapt to change.
For him, the need for transformation does not fall only because of the current pandemic circumstances, since, within the strategic plan of Meliá Hotels and his own vision, innovation, digitization and sustainability, are fundamental pillars.
“Success has only one secret: Working as a team…”
In addition to his vast preparation, Rivera possesses some key competencies to achieve success in any project. He is proactive, detail-oriented, results-focused, friendly and committed to excellence.
He can communicate with great ease in Spanish, English, Portuguese and French, but this is not the only skill that allows him to connect with his team and guests at Paradisus Grand Cana and Palma Real hotels in Punta Cana; Rivera has the gift of making a simple conversation into a memorable moment.
At what point did you realize that hospitality is your passion?
I come from a family of engineers and professors. My father wanted me to be a civil engineer, but I didn’t like it. My family had a pastry, ice cream and confectionery company. Great pastry chefs came to Spain to give demonstrations and I became interested in gastronomy. I must confess that I am a frustrated chef. I did a year of engineering and then I made a pact with my father to study Tourism Business Management and Administration. During my studies, I became more and more in love with the hotel and catering business every year.
How much time do you dedicate to your work?
It is said that hospitality is a 24-hour job, 365 days a year, I try to have a certain balance and dedicate between 12 and 14 hours a day. This is more than a profession, it is a passion, and as such it involves you. The customer’s positive experience, their smile, creating moments for families, seeing children who don’t want to leave the hotel, that fills me with satisfaction.
What is the main objective of your role?
The Meliá chain is currently developing reinvention strategies for the Dominican Republic. This market is very important to us. We have a history here, but we are proposing a restructuring to be more agile, more efficient and effective for the client, achieving a synergy between the hotels so that the experience is unique.
What are the characteristics you look for in a person to be part of your team?
I have only one commandment for my team: Loyalty is non-negotiable. And I don’t mean that people should be submissive, on the contrary, I like to be retained. I value sincerity and honesty. I have made many decisions by intuition, a resume says many things, but the look and gestures tell me much more. I want to work with people who are first and foremost human beings, empathetic, who try to understand customers and their colleagues.
What makes the Meliá chain unique?
I have no doubt, the people. In the Dominican Republic there are excellent hotel proposals, all with a wonderful location because this country is a true paradise, the difference is the human factor, the warmth and commitment of those who work here. I am extremely proud of my team and I always let them know.
Surely you have met many personalities, have any of them made an impact on you?
I have met presidents, ministers, celebrities… But there was one person who made an impact on me, my fellow Galician Amancio Ortega, chairman of Inditex. One of the richest people in Spain, accustomed to every luxury, and he asked me to be treated as normally as possible. It is difficult for someone like that to tell you that when you want to offer him all the best of the hotel, but he wanted to go unnoticed, he wanted to live the experience and his humility captivated me.
An unforgettable encounter was with King Felipe of Spain, a very attentive person, he asked me key questions about the Meliá chain, which indicated that he was dedicated to reading about us to learn about the essence and history of the brand, it was a nice gesture on his part. Others have not been so good, but we choose to always remember the best.