Who are you both?

Gian Franco (left) & Albert (right)

Gian Franco (GF) is an entrepreneur born in Perú and based in Spain. He is passionate about hospitality, he loves to make people feel at home and help them connect with the local culture. He is an innovation lover, in all its shapes and forms, as an entrepreneur seeking constant innovation that helps him do things better, and differently. On a personal level, he is also very involved in helping refugees through their integration process. For this, he has found sports to be a great tool and leads a social organisation called Futbol de Impacto. 

Albert is a passionate hotelier from Barcelona with over 15 years of experience in the industry, primarily in the reception and reservations departments. He began his career as a receptionist at NH Hotels. And since then he was promoted and taken on more responsibilities, always guided by three principles: excellence in customer service, creating a motivating work environment with a fully cohesive team and generating additional revenue from the department through upselling and direct sales.

At 25, he temporarily left the hotel industry to embark on a great adventure, working for 2 years aboard the luxury cruise ship Queen Mary II, voyaging around the world. This experience helped him grow both personally and professionally. Expanding his vision of the hospitality industry and giving him a 360-degree view.

After learning and sharing his knowledge in different types of hotels, from boutique hotels to large resorts, he decided at the end of 2022 to put a pause on his career in hotel operations and fully dedicate himself to his life purpose. And that purpose is to unite his great passions: hospitality, innovation, education, and knowledge sharing. All of this, in the context of the significant disruption we are experiencing with the evolution of the internet as we know it: Web3 and the technologies that support it, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and immersive realities.

What is your professional role?

GF: At Sweet Accommodations & CoImpact Coliving, I am a co-founder, marketing, and innovation manager. At Hospitalidad Emprendedora I am a communicator & educator. At Fútbol de Impacto I am an educator & futbol coach. 

Albert: I am the co-founder of Hospitalidad Emprendedora and Spain & LATAM Sales Manager at Takyon.

Tell us about Hospitalidad Emprendedora.

Hospitalidad Emprendedora is a « passion project » born during the pandemic. It started as a podcast, a space where we interview tourism and hospitality business professionals that inspire us. Our main objective with this podcast is to create a space for curious minds and people from our industry. Share the story of professionals we admire. But also inspire our community to become high achievers by giving them tools for their personal and professional development.

Our personal journeys and exploration took each of us to the blockchain and web3 ecosystem. We both started learning and taking our first steps in this innovative new world on our own, first on a personal level. Through our talks and debates about how blockchain and Web3 can and will change everything we do, we realized that there was very little happening related to travel and decided to take a dive deep and explore the few projects that were there. 

Seeing how early it is for companies and professionals to fully understand the shift in paradigms that these new technologies bring to the table, we decided to create an initiation course on blockchain and web3 for industry professionals. So far more than 50 professionals have taken our course and with it their first steps towards becoming a “Professional 3.0”. Our concept of the professional of this new era. With our constant search and exploration of Web3 in Travel projects, we are building relationships with the people behind these projects, collaborating with them and helping to build the bridge that connects the current state of our industry to the Web3 future.

For the less experienced in Web3, what are you currently doing directly in the Hospitality sector?

One project that we are currently working on is Takyon. Through their technology, hotels can offer a unique value proposition to their guests. We offer a non-refundable reservation that can be resold if any changes happen. 

This is done thanks to the technology behind the somewhat famous NFTs. Basically, a reservation that is made with this unique rate is turned into an NFT which is a digital asset that the guest has the complete property of. This digital asset can be sold by the guest on the secondary market of Takyon until 23:59 pm of the day before check-in. 

Consumers nowadays want flexibility, nobody wants to be tied down to a very strict cancellation policy. With this technology, hotels get all the benefits of a traditional non-refundable reservation. And guests receive the usual discount on their non-refundable reservation. But also, the chance to sell their reservation if their travel plans change. 

On top of this, hotels offer a unique advantage only available on their website, allowing them to increase their direct reservations. This is one implementation that affects the hospitality sector directly and can be done now, in a matter of minutes, on any booking engine out there. 

Besides this, we will also see great changes in hotel fidelity memberships thanks to the ownership that Web3 technologies bring. The Web3 hotel fidelity memberships will for example allow us to gift or sell the rewards that we have won through our stays. Some hotels will also implement new ways to engage with their clients through digital assets. This creates a deeper relationship between the hotel and its clients

How Is Revenue Management evolving with new technologies like Crypto, Blockchain and Web3?

In the example above, thanks to the technology of Takyon, we now have a new price discoverability method. The fact that we create a secondary market for hotel reservations, where guests and potential guests interact directly with each other, allows hotels and revenue managers to better measure the value that customers give to their rooms. 

On the other hand, crypto is basically digital money. This digital money is better fitted for digital and e-commerce transactions. Most hotels are selling their rooms and inventory online. Because it is digital money, it can be programmed. When crypto will be fully adopted, we will be able to program all of our cancellation and payment policies to automatically execute themselves. This will result in better processes, less time spent on tasks that don’t bring any value to the guest, no chargebacks or denied credit cards, and fewer chances for fraud. Blockchain technology at its core will also bring full transparency to the now very fragmented hotel distribution. The fact that every transaction on blockchain technology is fully traceable will allow hotels to gain full control of their inventory. It will take time but this and much more are coming.

What has been your career path so far?

GF: I co-founded Sweet Accommodations while I was still in business school in Barcelona. Before this, during my high school and university years, while living in the USA, I worked as a houseman, housekeeping, maintenance and front desk at many different hotels. I was working at a company that provided employees to hotels in Orlando Florida, so I worked in 4 other properties between summer jobs. When I arrived in Barcelona to finish university I opened a Couchsurfing profile and was receiving guests in my house for free. It was a great way to meet and share with people from different cultures. I also travelled a bit and stayed in places through Couchsurfing. 

Through this experience, I realized how much I enjoyed hosting people and how good I actually was at it. That is when I decided to open my first bed and breakfast and from there begins the story of my company.

Where were you 10 years ago?

GF: In Barcelona, running my first bed and breakfast together with a friend. It was called Casa Trippy and was in the neighbourhood of Gràcia. It was very small, now I wouldn’t consider it a business, it was quite relaxed and informal. I and my friend would share a room and host guests in 3 other rooms. We received them, prepared breakfast for them, and cleaned the house. It was a great way to begin and an amazing way to make my own money while studying. 

Albert: I was working as an assistant reception and reservations manager at the Hesperia Lanzarote hotel, a 5-star resort. Thanks to a full balance between my personal and professional life, it was one of the most enjoyable stages of my life. The island of Lanzarote has a unique magic, and it was a period where I learned to know myself better and laid the foundation for many of the values that guide me today.

What is the most challenging part of your current project?

In the current place where we are, I would say it’s the fact that we feel that businesses and professionals still don’t see the need to learn and understand Web3 and Blockchain and how it applies to their professional careers and businesses. 

We, as people, only pay attention to things once it’s too late and we are forced to notice. And we don’t want this to happen to our industry. We see interest from some people but not as much as we feel it needs to be.

Your greatest professional pride?

GF: Surviving the pandemic. Many hotels and hostels have closed and never come back to business. At Sweet Accommodations, we have not only survived but we are actually now better off than before the pandemic. During the lockdown, we also set up a social project in our hostel in Barcelona. We hosted 19 homeless people for 6 months. This is also something I will always be very proud of. 

Albert: More than a specific moment, my greatest pride is knowing that I have positively influenced the colleagues I have encountered throughout my career. In day-to-day life, we often do not realize that we may inspire our colleagues. Even if they don’t tell us at the time. Every time a former colleague tells me how much they have learned from me, from my way of interacting with the team both professionally and personally, the feeling of knowing that I have left a legacy and positively impacted someone, even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time, is a sense of pride that makes me very happy and grateful for the path that life has taken me on up until now.

Where will you be in 10 years?

GF: Very much involved in the hospitality and travel industry through innovation and education. I would love to be part of an innovation lab. Conceptualizing and experimenting with the craziest ideas and always having a positive impact in mind. Not innovating just for the sake of it. 

Albert: Sharing my knowledge in tourism innovation and being involved in societal projects. But also keep in mind that the balance between family and personal life is vital to living a fulfilling life.

For the next interview, whom would you like to read and why?

Jimmy Pons. He is one of our reference points in tourism innovation. Every time we talk to him or attend one of his talks and conferences, he manages to inspire and teach us something new. Albert has been following him for over 10 years. Basically, he is an example of constant adaptation and innovation, always staying one step ahead by knowing what will have an impact and be relevant in the industry in the coming years. Furthermore, his constant search for a balance between the human and the technological resonates strongly with us. It is always a pleasure to read his work whenever we can.

Keywords: Web3, Gian Franco Mercado, Albert Pérez Llanos, Hospitalidad Emprendedora, Takyon, Sweet Accommodations, blockchain