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Best practice from Spain: The hotels where everyone is included – Ilunion Hoteles

In today’s rapidly evolving tourism industry, developing a strategic approach on skills development within organisations is crucial for a futureproof sector and workforce to remain competitive and responsive to changing market demands. In this series of best practices we highlight key areas of skills development necessary for the digital and sustainable transformation and inclusive tourism growth. We discuss best practices that have been carefully selected in the PANTOUR project countries to get inspired. In this blog, we focus on Ilunion Hoteles, a hotel created in response to the general crisis in Spain in 2008.

Background information

ILUNION Hotels was created in response to the general crisis in Spain in 2008. At that time, CONFORTEL’s directors realised that they were a company that did not offer a differential value in terms of services, technology or facilities compared to other hotel companies. A change of strategy was needed. This strategy was based on putting people at the centre. The employees became a group of interest ahead of even the customer. In addition, among the group of employees, priority was given to those who were difficult to integrate into the labour market: people with disabilities or who were vulnerable due to their origin, race, abuse or refugees. In order to achieve the insertion and professionalisation of these people, the involvement of the rest of the staff was necessary, creating internal mentoring programmes. The number of 12 hotels with 80% of their staff with disabilities was achieved, which represents some 700 people.


Analysis and overview

The company is 100% owned by the ONCE Foundation, which is an instrument of cooperation and solidarity of the Spanish blind towards other groups of people with disabilities to improve their living conditions. Fundación ONCE’s vision is to constantly evolve in the face of new challenges,in order to continue leading the social inclusion and autonomy of people with disabilities. Fundación ONCE’s vision is to constantly evolve in the face of new challenges, in order to continue leading the social inclusion and autonomy of people with disabilities in a supportive and sustainable way.


Key principles

Belonging to the ONCE Foundation imprints character. ILUNION Hotels shares the same mission, vision and values. In order to achieve its aims, the ONCE Foundation has set as its main actions:

  • Promoting the full integration of people with disabilities in the workplace.
  • The promotion of professional qualifications, job skills and personal and professional abilities, as determining factors in the level of employability of people with disabilities and, therefore, in the process of integration into the labour market.
  • The promotion of universal accessibility and design for all.

We all have personal skills to discover. ILUNION Hotels’ mentoring policy favours the discovery and strengthening of these skills. The human resources department closely monitors its employees, identifying their strengths and encouraging them to develop them, providing them with the appropriate training in each case. It is also possible to teach new tasks and new operations every day.


Examples and case studies

At ILUNION Hotels, the integration of psychologist-coaches within each establishment stands as a testament to their proactive approach in prioritizing employee well-being and fostering a conducive work environment. These dedicated professionals play a pivotal role in understanding the individual circumstances and challenges faced by employees, thereby facilitating the implementation of tailored solutions to address these issues. By delving into the intricacies of each employee’s experiences, the psychologist-coaches not only offer a supportive and empathetic outlet for addressing personal and professional concerns but also act as advocates for promoting holistic well-being within the workplace.

Through a comprehensive understanding of the unique needs and circumstances of their workforce, these psychologist-coaches aim to mitigate potential challenges and foster a harmonious work environment that prioritizes employee welfare. By proactively addressing issues related to worklife balance and mental well-being, ILUNION Hotels demonstrates a commendable commitment to creating a workplace culture that values the holistic health and happiness of its employees. This approach not only reflects the company’s empathetic and people-centric ethos but also underscores its dedication to fostering a supportive and nurturing work environment that encourages personal and professional growth. Furthermore, the presence of psychologist coaches within each establishment serves as a cornerstone of ILUNION Hotels’ comprehensive employee welfare program, emphasizing the integral role of mental and emotional well-being in sustaining a thriving and productive workforce. By acknowledging the complex interplay between personal and professional challenges, the company proactively fosters an environment where employees feel supported, valued, and empowered to achieve a healthy work-life balance. This initiative not only underscores the company’s commitment to employee welfare but also showcases its innovative and empathetic approach to fostering a workplace culture that prioritizes holistic well-being and personal development.


Potential pitfalls and challenges

ILUNION Hotels’ ambitious endeavor to promote the advantages of social inclusion within the hospitality sector is not without its share of challenges and potential pitfalls. Despite the evident success and positive outcomes achieved by ILUNION Hotels, the task of driving widespread awareness and fostering a collective mindset shift among other industry players remains a significant obstacle. Encountering resistance from entrepreneurs and establishments entrenched in traditional business models poses a considerable challenge, as many perceive the adoption of social inclusion practices as a risky venture that could potentially disrupt their existing operational frameworks.

Navigating the complexities of ingrained mindsets and apprehensions surrounding change represents a formidable hurdle for ILUNION Hotels, as they strive to inspire a broader cultural shift toward embracing inclusive business practices within the hospitality sector. The reluctance to embrace change often stems from concerns over potential disruptions to established operational structures and the perceived risks associated with deviating from conventional business models. This resistance highlights the need for a comprehensive approach that not only showcases the tangible benefits of social inclusion but also addresses the apprehensions and uncertainties that hinder widespread adoption within the industry.

Furthermore, ILUNION Hotels’ journey to advocate for social inclusion underscores the importance of fostering collaborative partnerships and fostering an open dialogue to encourage knowledge sharing and best practice dissemination within the hospitality sector. Overcoming resistance to change and addressing skepticism necessitate a strategic approach that emphasizes the long-term advantages and sustainable benefits of embracing social inclusion practices, thereby fostering a more inclusive and equitable industry landscape. In their pursuit of advocating for social inclusion, ILUNION Hotels has encountered the inherent challenges of fostering a paradigm shift within the sector, highlighting the need for strategic and collaborative efforts to inspire industry-wide transformation. By acknowledging and addressing the potential pitfalls associated with promoting change, ILUNION Hotels is well-positioned to continue championing the values of inclusivity and driving meaningful impact within the hospitality industry.


Benefits and outcomes

The project’s results have provided numerous tangible advantages, attesting to its remarkable success. ILUNION Hotels has not only accomplished remarkable financial growth with a remarkable 20% increase in profitability as gauged by EBITDA but has also illustrated the efficacy of its inclusive business model. The considerable increase in profitability not only enhances their financial position but also highlights the feasibility of their strategy in promoting sustainable and socially conscious business practices. In addition, the notable enhancements observed in customer experience, reputation, and value proposition demonstrate the profound impact of the project in providing better service delivery and guest satisfaction. Through its commitment to prioritizing accessibility and inclusivity, ILUNION Hotels has created a welcoming environment that fosters meaningful connections with its diverse customer base. This has not only bolstered its reputation within the hospitality industry but has also established it as a beacon of excellence in providing exceptional and inclusive services. From an employee and human capital perspective, ILUNION Hotels’ project success is reinforced by its contributions to workforce development and talent management. Prioritizing the recruitment and retention of individuals with disabilities, ILUNION Hotels has created a diverse and inclusive workplace, fostering an environment that appreciates every employee’s unique contributions and perspectives. This investment in human capital has not only brought about a strong sense of belonging and purpose within their workforce but has also established ILUNION Hotels as an exemplary employer dedicated to fostering an inclusive and equitable work culture. Ultimately, the wide-ranging advantages and results of this program highlight the transformational influence of prioritizing accessibility, inclusivity, and human capital development. Through its steadfast adherence to these fundamental tenets, ILUNION Hotels has not only attained laudable financial achievements but also positioned itself as a pioneer in promoting social accountability and cultivating a comprehensive and fair society.


Measuring success

The implementation of the Best Practice at ILUNION Hotels is underpinned by a robust framework that places a significant emphasis on the critical role of the Human Resources department in fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment. Recognizing the unique needs and requirements of a workforce predominantly comprising individuals with disabilities or at risk of social exclusion, the Human Resources team assumes a multifaceted responsibility that extends beyond conventional administrative tasks.

At the core of their responsibilities, the Human Resources department at ILUNION Hotels assumes a pivotal role in orchestrating a comprehensive support system that prioritizes the well-being and professional development of each employee. This entails a proactive approach to closely monitoring and addressing the specific requirements and challenges faced by employees, ensuring that the workplace environment remains conducive to their individual needs. By fostering a culture of open communication and inclusivity, the Human Resources team facilitates an ongoing dialogue with employees, encouraging them to voice their concerns and requirements, thereby enabling the organization to tailor its policies and practices to accommodate diverse needs.

Furthermore, the Human Resources department at ILUNION Hotels is instrumental in driving the implementation of tailored training programs and initiatives that cater to the unique skill development and career progression requirements of the workforce. By designing specialized training modules and skill enhancement workshops, the Human Resources team empowers employees with the necessary tools and resources to thrive in their roles and contribute meaningfully to the organization’s success. This approach underscores the organization’s commitment to nurturing a dynamic and inclusive work environment that fosters professional growth and personal development for all employees. Through their dedicated efforts and proactive approach, the Human Resources department at ILUNION Hotels serves as a key enabler in promoting an inclusive and supportive workplace culture that places employee well-being and development at the forefront. By championing a people centric approach and fostering a collaborative and empowering work environment, the Human Resources team upholds the organization’s commitment to creating a workplace that values diversity, nurtures talent, and promotes a culture of inclusivity and equality


Research has shown that implementing an inclusive business model, similar to that of ILUNION Hotels, not only promotes social advancement but also leads to significant economic benefits. Thus, it is essential for all hotels, irrespective of whether they’re part of a chain or operate independently, to consider the tactical incorporation of individuals with disabilities and those at risk of exclusion into their workforce. By utilizing the potential of human resources, hotels can create a diverse, all-encompassing, and flourishing working atmosphere. This can foster augmented productivity, originality, and the overall progress of the business.


References and external resources

ILUNION Hoteles, Cadena de Hoteles Accesibles en España (ilunionhotels.com)

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