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Melia CEO sees Q1 bookings surpassing 2019 levels by 40%

MADRID (Reuters) -Spanish hotel chain Melia expects global bookings to surpass pre-pandemic 2019 levels by 40% in the first quarter of this year after profitability jumped in 2022, Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Escarrer said on Wednesday.

The company posted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation over 400 million euros ($432.96 million) in 2022 - as targeted in June - up from 125 million euros in the previous year, Escarrer told reporters in Madrid.

The CEO described the 2023 outlook as "encouraging".

"Everybody was expecting an important recession, but we don't see any symptoms of a slowdown," he added.

Bookings for the first quarter are 40% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, while prices are 7% more expensive than in 2022 and 30% above 2019 levels, Escarrer said.

Hoteliers raised rates across the board last year as the lifting of pandemic restrictions led to a surge in demand, according to official data.

The prices surpassed pre-pandemic levels, data from the National Statistics Institute showed as early as in May.

The Mallorca-based group is planning to open or buy 25 more hotels this year, Escarrer added, as he forecast a good year for the Spanish and wider European tourism industry.

($1 = 0.9239 euros)

(Reporting by Corina Pons and Inti Landaur; Writing by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Andrei Khalip, David Latona and Louise Heavens)