Gabriel Escarrer (b. 1935) is the founder and majority stakeholder of Meliá Hotels International, one of the world’s largest holiday chains, and the largest in Spain.
Born on the island of Mallorca, Gabriel worked as an errand boy for the Wagon-lit travel agency while he was a teenager but eschewed this as a career path, instead opening his first hotel, the Altair, in Palma de Mallorca, when he was just 21. He continued to build his portfolio under the company name Hoteles Mallorquines as the island increased in popularity with package holidaymakers. In the 1960s and 1970s, he expanded the business to acquire hotels in the other Balearic Islands and the Canaries, and by the early 1980s had a network established through much of the Spanish mainland.
During the 1980s, the company acquired the Hotasa Group and merged with the upmarket Meliá chain, renaming itself Sol Meliá. In so doing, it became the largest hotel chain in Spain, with extended geographical scope throughout the Americas, the Caribbean, and other parts of Europe. In 1996, Gabriel stepped down from the Chief Executive role to make way for his sons, Gabriel Jr. and Sebastian, who jointly took on the roles of CEO and deputy CEO. This was also the year the company was publicly traded, although the Escarrer family continue to control Meliá Hotels with a majority stake. Of the more than 300 hotels owned by the company, approximately half are in Spain.
Gabriel continues to help steer the business, and has received numerous accolades, including the United Nations World Tourism Organisation inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Industry Hall of Fame in 2001.