HOTELS

Colombia 2017 | TOURISM & RETAIL | B2B

Tourism is set to boom in Colombia in the coming years with the peace deal and more hotel projects developing around the country.

Miguel DIez Trujillo
MIGUEL DIEZ TRUJILLO
President
Hoteles Estelar
Juan Carlos Galindo de la Vega
JUAN CARLOS GALINDO DE LA VEGA
CEO
OxoHotel

How do you see Colombia's improving reputation affecting its tourism sector?

Miguel DIez Trujillo In 2016, 2.6 million people visited Colombia, which is a small number compared to major tourist countries with highly developed infrastructure. Now that Colombia has signed a peace deal, we expect increases in the number of tourists that visit the country. However, the main problem is a lack of development in infrastructure, particularly in beach areas. Furthermore, there are problems in communication; people cannot search for tourism information online, a factor that negatively affects the country's appeal. The government has to work on improving these infrastructural problems and enable Colombia to compete at the international level. Colombia is in the center of the Americas and allows easy access to the US and southern Latin America. This is particularly important for companies such as those from Spain with multiple branches and headquarters in Colombia. This strategic position also reflects the importance of infrastructure, as hotels and roads make Colombia appealing for companies.

Juan Carlos Galindo de la Vega Without a doubt, the most important single achievement for the country in the past 50 years has been the signing of the peace agreement, which will bring enormous benefits for the country in general, but especially for tourism. It has been proven that the number of tourists who visit countries that have ended a conflict can quadruple within a five-year period. Colombia was a restricted destination during war times for visa issuing countries such as the US or France. Today, with the peace agreement, Colombia is becoming a more attractive country to visit, and this will surely increase the number of visitors, currently at a low level considering the wealth and destinations of the country. We are also seeing growing interest from foreign investors who want a presence in Colombia because they see its growth and development potential.

Why was Cartagena chosen for Hoteles Estelar's new flagship hotel?

MDT We have strategic plans that will guide our actions for the next 10 years depending on the stability of the sector and the country. Our strategic plan includes an increase in hotels when the existing ones no longer satisfy the demands of the region. In Cartagena, we already have several properties. Using the experience we gained from building and operating other properties, we decided to build a corporate hotel in Cartagena. This hotel answers both demands that arose in Cartagena: a hotel for leisure and a convention center. It has 338 rooms, two restaurants, a swimming pool, and a convention center that can host 1,200 people. This building is a leading project of Hoteles Estalar because of its proportions and its location. Cartagena is a crucial city in terms of enabling Colombia to be competitive in tourism, and the government is promoting Cartagena as a top destination. The existing convention centers are on smaller scales and fail to answer the needs of the city. Cartagena can offer our guests multiple services in one visit.

In which cities or regions do you see the best opportunities?

JCGdlV OxoHotel wants to continue growing in the corporate hotel business in the country's main cities in segments with unfulfilled demand; we analyze every detail in each market to determine the appropriate product for cities like Cali, Pereira, Pasto, and Medellín. We have also identified a great potential in the vacation market. As a result, we have created a specific division for this market to develop hotels to satisfy the growing demand of national and international tourists that see Colombia as a must-visit destination. We are currently building the first vacation property in San Andres, in partnership with the Spanish group Sirenis, which we will operate. We are in the process of securing more hotels of this type at the main vacation destinations in Colombia.

What are your goals and expectations for 2017?

MDT 2016 was a good year for the company as we strengthened our position and took a big step with our project in Cartagena. However, we faced difficulties due to political uncertainties. 2017 will be an ambitious year for us since the peace deal has been settled and the tax reform has been implemented. In the coming months, the extent of the reforms will be much clearer. Thus, we are expecting a big development and have a big budget for 2017.

JCGdlV We are optimist regarding the medium- and long-term benefits from peace. We expect to develop a tourism and hotel product in 2017-2018 that will allow us to meet the growing demand of tourists arriving here. The following years will be years of consolidation and growth.