The Marriott International hotel chain looks favorably on the development of the hotel industry in Latin America and specifically in Colombia. Dinero spoke with Víctor Vásquez, Vice President of Hotel Development Marriot, during Sahic 2018, who assured that this year they would grow 5% more than 2017 in the country, driven by the impetus that the tourism sector has had.
Money: Marriott how do you see the Latam market in the last year?
Víctor Vásquez: We have a positive outlook for Latin America in general and for Colombia in particular. We have 240 hotels in the region, we are one of the largest hotel operators and we participate with 19 brands in 33 countries.
In general, we operate in 4 Latam regions: Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. There are 4 different realities and we all see them positive with some ups and downs in some economies such as Argentina or Brazil, but we see Colombia as very solid.
D: And in Argentina, how do you deal with the economic crisis?
VV: It is very difficult to predict in Argentina because the variables change constantly. A very strong devaluation in the last 3 months, but what we see is positive at least in the short and medium term from the point of view of the hotel industry.
Because what a devaluation does is that the guest or the national traveler stops traveling abroad and concentrates on the domestic market. We have 11 hotels in Argentina.
Devaluation also makes the destination cheaper for foreign tourists. And in the long term, I must say that a devaluation never helps a country because it can lead to a recession. There we all suffer.
D: Is the panorama in Brazil worrying you?
VV: We have 15 hotels in this country. I believe that the economy in Brazil is like a pause, the businessmen and the business nucleus are waiting to see what happens in the elections at the beginning of October.
Regardless of who wins the elections we will continue working to grow the company. But from the business point of view, there is a lot of uncertainty because you do not know whether to invest or not, without knowing which party is going to win. October 8 will be clarified.
D: Do you see potential for growth in Colombia?
VV: In this country we have 14 hotels. We see that the economy is organized, well structured, the country has had a tendency to growth in recent years, as well as its projections. In addition, it is a country that exports commodities, but the prices of these products are maintained; Therefore, Colombia is good in terms of coffee, coal and oil.
And it has cities that attract a lot like Cartagena, Bogotá, Medellín. Now, local markets are also gaining strength: the whole coffee route is developing and we have our eyes set there.
D: Has the crisis in the construction sector in the country affected the development of the hotel industry?
VV: Yes, what it does is to delay a bit the construction period of a hotel that can be in historical averages between a year and a half or 2 years. But it also depends on the funding capacity of the owners of the hotels.
Marriott does not own hotels, he’s a hotel manager and sometimes we franchise brands too. We work with the owner of the hotel in the construction process, we help him in the design, the structures and others. There already depends a lot on the owner and his contact with financial entities and other entities that the construction is achieved within the estimated time.
D: We are adportas of a law of financing or a tax reform, could this contribute to a decline in the tourism and hotel industry?
VV: Yes it would affect it. Keep in mind that different markets or different cities have different markets. For example, Bogotá feeds heavily on international tourism (with the expansion of museums and business), as does Cartagena; and that international tourism would not be affected by the reforms in the tax part.
But you always have to take stock, hotels that are in cities that feed on local tourism, they will have a cimbronazo. Hotels that feed on the international market are going to have some benefit.
D: Will those who have Marriott in the coffee zone be punished?
VV: A little punished in the part that is local. The foreign tourist is not affected by these things.
D: How do you see the issue of informality in the Colombian hotel industry?
VV: Marriott obeys and follows all the rules and regulations in each of the countries in which we work. We are regulated by international standards and we respect absolutely all the legislations of the 33 countries in which we operate in Latin America and in more than 125 throughout the world.
D: What is the balance of the company in the first half of the year in the local market?
VV: We are doing very well. In Latin America, tourism is growing strongly. There are some countries that have very particular situations that have more to do with the political than with the economic, but we continue to grow in the indicator that marks the amount of sales vs the number of rooms available in each of the hotels.
This indicator has grown between 4% or 5% in the last 2 years.
D: Do you expect to have positive trends in sales, income, occupation, among others?
VV: The outlook is positive like all of Latin America. In particular, Colombia is one of the 4 most important markets in which we operate, surpassed by Mexico with 83 hotels, but here we have an important development.
We have hotels that we are signing and we have groups of entrepreneurs that are approaching us with conversion ideas. Marriott’s strength is in booking channels and the ability to make contracts with large-scale suppliers.
D: How much is the percentage of overall growth expected for the close of 2018?
Víctor Vásquez: In Colombia we expect growth to be less than 5%. In 2017, that percentage was between 2.5% and 5%.
SOURCE: PUBLICACIONES SEMANA S.A.