THE iHi INDEPENDENT HOTEL DIRECTORY - SPAIN - 2017
SPAIN - EspañaThe iHi SPAIN independent hotel guide only lists favourably reviewed small hotels with character and guest houses offering a calm and relaxing environment to travellers. The IHI directory gives priority to hotels in quiet locations in rural areas, offering good value for money, and to town hotels in historic city centre areas.
iHi welcomes suggestions from travellers and hotel owners.
In reality, hotel infrastructure in resorts like Benidorm or Torremolinos is not typical of Spain as a whole. The offer of hotels in Spain is more varied, but as in other countries the Spanish hotel market has seen in recent years a development of hotel chains at the expense of independent hotels.
Back in 1996, only 20% of Spain's hotels belonged to a chain; but already at the time, the number of chain hotels in the country was starting to grow. Since then, Spain has seen the rapid development of its own national hotel chains, the largest of which are Sol Mélia, NH Hoteles, Barceló, and Riu. By 2009, of the 781,000 hotels rooms in Spain, almost 518,000 were in hotels belonging to chains, and only 263,000 in independent hotels.
The development of Spanish hotels chians has been has been helped in part by the specific nature of the Spanish hotel market, where five star and four-star hotels account for an unusually high proportion of hotel stays - 47% of overnight stays in 2009 according to official figures, up from 34% in 2000. Though international tourists contribute a fair share of this figure, the Spanish themselves tend to stay more readily in four and five star establishments than do the British or the French when moving round their own country, a feature that has undoubtedly facilitated the development of small chains of up-market city hotels throughout Spain.
In 2011, there are some eighty different hotel chains with operations in Spain, most of them Spanish and many of them small. However, following the serious downturn in the Spanish economy since 2007, there have been some rich pickings in Spain for international hotel chains, and several of the world's leading chains, including Marriott, Accor (Mercure, Ibis) and Intercontinental Hotels (Holiday Inn) are currently involved in setting up in Spain under their own labels, and/or establishing partnerships with Spanish groups to develop hotels under joint ventures.
One unusual feature of the Spanish hotel market is the chain of Paradores nacionales; these are top quality hotels, run by the the Spanish state, and usually located in historic monuments in urban or rural locations. The first Parador opened in 1928, setting a benchmark in refined hotel quality standards that more recent private up-market Spanish hotel chains have strived to emulate.
However, away from the concrete towers of the Mediterranean coast, away from the big cities, with their large and often glitzy chain hotels, Spain is a country of small hotels, many of them independent. And this tendency is certain to continue into the future.
Outside the coastal resorts and the large cities, the economics of hotel operation are different, and the clientele is different, or visitor motivations are different. As many visitors to Spain have learned to their cost, turning up in a small Spanish town in the expectation that it will have a good hotel, or even just a hotel, can be a rash experiment. Outside the resorts and the cities, and away from the main roads where many independent hotels have set up on account of the guarantee of passing customers, large parts of Spain are a desert in terms of hotels. Rural Spain does not have the kind of large network of rural and small town auberges or inns as do France or the UK, and the hotels that do exist in many Spanish small towns are often either rudimentary or unexpectedly luxurious - though more frequently the former than the latter.
Throughout Spain, there are however hundreds of independent rural and small town hotels; the difficulty is finding the nice ones. The iHi Spain guide has sought out and selected just a few such hotels. With the current developing trend for eco-hotels, many of the nicer small independent hotels can be found in rural areas, notably in mountainous parts of Spain or other areas of natural beauty.
Hotel or hostal?
What is a hostal? In brief, a Spanish hostal is a simple hotel, usually the equivalent of a one star or two star hotel without certain of the required trappings.
While hostales are not the same as the English word "hostels", they can often cater for a similar backpacker type of customer; but depending on the environment, and the establishment, they can on occasions seem more like extremely good value and friendly small hotels, offering all the comforts of a good two-star or three-star hotel. In this respect, some hostales are similar to auberges or pensions, inns or guest-houses. Generally speaking, hostales are small extablishments, with a maximum of 10 rooms. While travellers looking for four-star or five-star luxury might turn their noses up at the idea of staying in a hostal, less demanding travellers could do well to investigate a hostal if it looks attractive from the outside. It could end up being a great discovery.
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