ON COURSE

Colombia 2014 | TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Juan Carlos Beltrán Cruz, General Manager of Club la Pradera de Potosí, on the popularity of golf and tennis in Colombia and the success of the country club.

What is the significance of the recent agreement to bring a PGA tournament to Cartagena?

This is a great opportunity to continue showcasing Colombia to the world; golf in Colombia has advanced enormously in the last few years, both in terms of infrastructure and also the level of professional players. I think there are still many stereotypes regarding the situation in our country that no longer resemble reality, and such an important event will help us to show what Colombia is really about now. Also, we have some very talented players who are ready to take a step forward in their careers.

What does Colombia have to offer to golf players?

It is offers a wide variety of golf courses—Colombia is a very rich country in terms of its biodiversity and geography, and this is reflected in the many different courses we have available for players. This also means a variety of levels of complexity in the game. We are also very innovative in terms of design. For example, our golf course goes along a surface where there are houses too; the course was developed as part of a highly regarded residential project. The construction of the entire project started 18 years ago. Over the past few years, Pradera de Potosí has become one of the leading golf courses in the country, providing some of the most interesting game offerings to players. We have organized an amateur golf tournament for over a decade, and in 2014 we went one step further and organized the first professional tournament here. Therefore, we can say that Pradera de Potosí has matured as a golf course, and we have high expectations for the future.

“We have been the leader in the development of residential and sports infrastructure projects in the area."

With the recent success of Santiago Giraldo, the Colombian tennis player, in the ATP rankings, how would you characterize the demand for this sport in Colombia?

There's also a great opportunity to develop more professional infrastructure for tennis in Colombia, and raise the overall competitive level in the country. Tennis represents a sport with the highest percentage of participation, despite not being a very popular sport in Colombia. However, I think that as players like Santiago Giraldo continue to be successful in ATP tournaments, we will experience an increase in demand for the sport. Also, I think tennis represents one of the best examples of the professionalization and development of a sport from scratch in our country—today we have academies and master centers that provide the opportunity for talented players to pursue their dreams. I think one of the major challenges for this and other sports is the lack of economic resources for their further development, as well as for the support of talented players.

What's the background story of Club la Pradera de Potosí?

We formally set up the project in June 1996 through the real estate developer Potosí La Pradera SA. However, some of the security issues that the country faced back then delayed the realization of the project. After some years and a restructuring of the project, in 2001 the Cluba la Pradera de Potosí took a decisive step toward its future development. Today, we talk about a project that it was predicted would be for 680 members, plus 100 children of our members. At the moment, we have around 660 members. The main concept behind our project is to provide entertaining alternatives for families.

How has the development of high-end residential projects evolved in the area since the establishment of Club la Pradera de Potosí?

We have been the leader in the development of residential and sports infrastructure projects in the area. I think the local area, due to its proximity to Bogotá and the lack of space in the capital, has become a regional point for capitalizing on the development of these kinds of projects. After all these years, we have seen highly dynamic development in the area—at the moment, there are 65 urban development projects in the zones neighboring La Pradera, and they have matched our high standards to develop their projects. Therefore, we have been a pioneer and leading institution in terms of the development of urban and sports infrastructure.

What are some of the highlights of your social responsibility activities?

We regard action for social and environmental responsibility as an integrated part of our overall activity. In this context, we have a foundation that engages with many activities for our members and the entire region. We have implemented several programs through our foundation related to fields such as education and entertainment. We have also taken positive steps toward the preservation of the environment and the prevention of floods in the area, the recovery of river basins, and the preservation of river ecosystem areas. We are very active and interact at a very high level with the community, and we will continue to do so in the future.

What are the highlights of your policies toward staff?

We currently have around 350 direct employees, meaning that we are a large employer in the region. We care very much about our employees and we provide them with education and training opportunities to finish their studies or master some specific skills. We also have several cooperation agreements with universities to offer higher education alternatives to our staff. We also have an agreement with CEMEX to facilitate housing access for our employees. These kinds of opportunities also include our sports facilities, as we encourage our staff to have a healthy lifestyle.

What does the club currently offer?

In terms of our offerings, we are one of the most complete social clubs in Colombia; we have 10 different categories of sport available, we have the longest golf course in the region, we have 18 tennis courts, we have a large and highly developed equestrian area, many different swimming pools, a football pitch, squash courts, billiards, and bowling alleys. In addition, we have all the services offered by other social clubs, including massage, beauty, spa facilities, health, and wellness.

Does La Pradera de Potosí have agreements with other social clubs in Colombia and abroad?

We have already held some talks with social clubs in the US and Spain, and we hope to reach agreements with them in the near future. At the moment, we are in the process of deepening our international connections. At the national level, we already have these cooperation agreements with many of the main cities in Colombia, including Cali, Medellín, Bucaramanga, and others.

What membership options does the club offer to foreign citizens?

We have a type of membership called a “diplomatic visitor" package, and also offer temporary membership plans. There are also a number of alternate membership plans that we offer; for example, people can visit our club as a substitute for the main member when he or she is abroad and cannot attend the club. In fact, we have people residing in La Pradera who are from other nations, such as Mexicans, Argentineans, Venezuelans, and Chileans, who have taken part in the development of the club in the last few years. We are very open to foreign citizens and welcome their interest in our club.

© The Business Year - August 2014