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
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
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.
Continued: 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,
About the Hotel Oriente check the book by the retired hotel manager, the
late Francisco Martínez Díaz: Hotel Oriente, Historia Viva,
Editorial Labor, 1992.
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.
More articles about Madrid
- History of
the HUSA group, part 2