|Hoteles Unidos S.A.
- HUSA group
History of Spain's leading family hotel chain, founded by José Gaspart Bulbena in 1930
Article added on August 8, 2003
As a teenager, José Gaspart Bulbena (1885-1961) left his quiet hometown for Barcelona. For somebody without a trade whose only resources were his enthusiasm and determination to make his way, life was not easy. He worked as a house-painter, a warehouse-boy and as a waiter in a café. This was his first encounter with the hotel and restaurant trade and it aroused in him the desire to pursue a career in this area.
In order to succeed, José Gaspart Bulbena needed to see the world and learn languages. He boarded a ship as a stowaway and departed for Marseille where he found work in a café. The boss let him sleep on a mattress behind the counter.
As soon as he got the chance, he left for England, where he was lucky to enter a lord's service as a butler, quite an achievement in the British elitist society at the turn of the 20th century.
He accompanied the lord on his Grand Tour and therefore managed to broaden his horizons, learn languages and acquire experience. One of the travels led them to Cairo, where José Gaspart Bulbena decided to leave the lord's services and to acquaint himself with the luxury hotel business, staying on to work in the city's best establishments.
After a series of travels to other countries, Gaspart Bulbena considered it was time to return to Barcelona in order to try to build up his own business. At first, he worked as a waiter in a very select café, then as a concierge at the Hotel Palace. Finally, after he had married, he succeeded in taking on lease the Hotel España in Barcelona. Now he was able to put into practice all he had learned before.
The good results of his management of the Hotel España encouraged him to lease the Hotel Oriente (in 1924), a former convent, school and inn. It is an establishment of great sentimental value since members of four generations of the Gaspart family lived and worked there.
In 1927, anticipating the increased demand for hotel accommodation that the International Exposition of 1929 would create, he added two more storeys to the Hotel Oriente. He leased the restaurants of highest category at the exposition grounds and took part in the hotel association that was organized to ensure the lodging of all visitors to the Barcelona International Exposition.
Thanks to the earnings from his management of the hotels España and Oriente and from the restaurant business at the International Exposition, José Gaspart Bulbena was able to found his own hotel chain with two friends as partners.
The incorporation deed of the HUSA group, Hoteles Unidos S.A., was signed on June 30, 1930 in Tarragona, Spain. The three founders of HUSA were José Gaspart Bulbena, at the time lessee of the hotels Oriente and España in Barcelona, Ramón Oller, owner of the Hotel Europa in Taragona, and the Vilalta family, Gaspart Bulbena's partner in the Barcelona hotels.
At the time of the founding of the HUSA group, José Gaspart Bulbena was 45, and an economic depression had followed the 1929 stock market crash. Despite these facts, he had the courage to build up a new company, with the original intention of selling it to the Americans.
The Hotel Oriente became the HUSA headquarters and remained it until 1978. From 1931 to 1935, the group came to manage 14 hotels in Spain, including the original three. One of the last bombs of Spain's Civil War from 1936-39 hit the Oriente, but could not stop José Gaspart Bulbena. He was a man with tenacity and fighting spirit, who was arrested during Civil War and confined for three months in the castle of Montjuïc. After another three months in France he traveled to Seville where HUSA managed to Hotel Madrid. During the Civil War, he had sent his two sons two Berlin and London, to learn languages.
After Civil War, the HUSA hotels were in a poor state. Realizing that after a tragedy, people usually look for amusement, HUSA opened El Cortijo, a night club in Barcelona.
History of the HUSA group, part 2.
This article is based on 1930-2000. GRUPO HUSA 70 años. Una empresa, cuatro generaciones, muchas vidas/One company, four generations, many lives. By Josep Gaspart Bueno for Grupo HUSA Barcelona, December 30, 2000.
About the Hotel Oriente check the book by the retired hotel manager, the late Francisco Martínez Díaz: Hotel Oriente, Historia Viva, Editorial Labor, 1992.
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Masía Torre Rodona, the 17th century head quarter building of the HUSA group.
Photo copyright: HUSA group.
The present president of the HUSA group: Mr. Joan Gaspart Solves.
Photo copyright: HUSA group.
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- History of the HUSA group, part 2