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Dominican Republic 2015 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Álvaro Peña, President of Codelpa, on how the firm got to where it is in the Dominican Republic.

What factors helped Codelpa establish a leading position in the Dominican Republic's construction sector in just two decades?

After the expansion of the tourism sector, we decided to focus on construction and today we are the foremost builder of hotel facilities. Codelpa currently has over 10,000 beds in its portfolio of built and renovated hotels. We have also benefited from the favorable conditions foreign investors enjoy here, which has brought many foreign companies to the Dominican Republic to build their hotels. As business expanded, we expanded our operations to other countries; for example, in 2005 we moved into Jamaica, a country where we plan to open a couple of new hotels this year. We believe that Jamaica has great potential within the tourism industry. Codelpa has also developed industrial projects in Haiti, and will explore new markets in the near future.

Could you tell us more about your current projects, such as Terminal A at Punta Cana Airport?

We have two projects in Punta Cana, which we have built in six months. They are breathtaking projects that are in line with the style we have encouraged over the years. Our projects are always completed on time and one of our greatest advantages is the team of young and talented professionals we have. We have invested a lot of time and resources in our people and processes; we are fully certified with ISO 9001 and we have played a very active role in industrializing the construction sector in this country. Codelpa has also invested in many facilities and processes related to the construction sector. For example, we are self-sufficient in cement blocks and concrete.

“Barcelo Hotels is one of our major clients right now."

What are Codelpa's competitive advantages over other companies in the sector?

Our people are our main assets; we have people from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Germany, Spain, and Haiti who keep us at the forefront of our industry.

Who are Codelpa's main clients?

Barcelo Hotels is one of our major clients right now. We also built for Grupo Martinón, Royalton, NH Hotels, Bahia Principe, and many more. This shows our flexibility and ability to produce at international standards. Regarding our business activity, this year we focused on strengthening our HR department in order to improve the training of our professionals. We have also built bridges with the higher education sector to provide our staff with other development opportunities. In addition, closer ties with universities will allow us to spot new professional talent.

In October 2013, Codelpa was recognized as the best construction company in the tourism sector for 2005-2012. What is the importance of such an award in terms of building customer confidence and attracting new clients?

These are two very important elements in our business. This award was bestowed by the Chamber of Construction, based on our impact in the tourism industry, making us the most important local company in this regard. The Association of Hotels also reinforced this prestige by highlighting how we conduct our operations from a business point of view. This substantiates the way in which we have managed to become a reliable company in a very competitive market. Over the years, we have partnered with European, Canadian, and US firms, meaning that we know how to adapt our work to their expectations. We are a very flexible company.

How would you assess the Dominican Republic's overall investment environment?

The current environment is ideal for investment. The Dominican Republic has better incentives than the entire Caribbean put together, with which we actively compete. We have become a very attractive investment destination thanks to political stability, favorable conditions, the affable character of our society, and over 10% growth this year in the tourism industry has been the main economic engine for the Dominican Republic.

Since 1980, revenues generated by the tourism sector have increased, from barely $172 million to $5 billion in 2013. How does Codelpa plan to respond to that upward trend and what industry segments do you see the most opportunities in?

The economy must be prepped for the growth of tourism. However, we also need to further diversify our business activity. There is also great potential in some segments of the tourism industry as this has evolved over the last few years. We now target a more high-end audience, rather than only the all-inclusive market. For example, there is great potential in the luxury and ecotourism segments. Health tourism could also bring some interesting developments and in my opinion, this may take place sooner than people expect. Finally, we still need to explore the second residence segment within the tourism sector, and take full advantage of our proximity to the US and Canada. We have taken some steps in this regard, but we have yet to fully exploit it.

What is your general outlook for the Dominican Republic's economy in the medium term and what sectors of the economy (besides tourism) possess the most potential for further development?

I think the country will continue to emulate the positive growth trends of the last decade. Apart from the tourism industry, the agriculture and agribusiness sectors have great potential, as currently the Caribbean region sources these products from the US. We have a lot to contribute to these markets. Organic agriculture is another segment with interesting prospects. The country has yet to fully explore economic cooperation with the US in terms of exports. Also, the increasing investment in education—right now there are 15,000 Dominican students around the world enjoying a scholarship—will boost the service- and IT-related business areas in the country.

© The Business Year - November 2014