Hilton Worldwide, with 66 properties in Latin America and the Caribbean and 20 more deals in the pipeline, is experiencing strong growth in the region, buoyed by expanding middle classes in several regional nations, generally strong economic growth and robust demand among business travelers.
“This is a great part of the world for the hotel industry today,” said Danny Hughes, Hilton Worldwide’s senior vice president for the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America. “The consumer base is growing rapidly, not just in Brazil but in Colombia and other places.
“There is also great growth in air travel, and people want to see the world,” said Hughes, who heads Hilton Worldwide’s regional office in Miami. “There will be cycles and challenges, but long-term, there are great opportunities as the region develops.”
Hughes spoke to Latin Trade from the new, 256-room Hilton Bogota in Colombia’s capital.
“I can’t remember seeing a hotel that took off so quickly,” he said.
Investor-owned and managed by Hilton, the hotel had a soft opening in December 2011 and its official opening in February of this year, and it already is approaching an 80 percent occupancy rate – a very high figure for the hotel business.
In contrast, the Caribbean region, more reliant on leisure travel than Latin America, is seeing somewhat slower growth, especially from the anemic economies in Europe.
Keeping up with demand, Hilton Worldwide has opened nine hotels since December 2009, in Mexico, Venezuela, Chile and Panama, as well as the Hilton in Bogota. Hilton is working on 20 new properties, including hotels in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru.
The company, whose brands include Hilton, Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Garden Inn and Hampton Inn, sees opportunities for properties across the entire range: new luxury hotels (The Panamera, a Waldorf-Astoria Hotel will open in Panama later this year) full-service hotels such as Hilton and Doubletree by Hilton as well as focused-service hotels such as Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn by Hilton, in cities that do not need a full-service hotel. New opportunities include airport hotels and hotels in underserved cities.
In general, about 80 percent of Hilton’s Latin American bookings come from business travelers, but it varies from country to country. At Hilton’s two Costa Rica resorts, for example, 80 percent of visitors are leisure travelers.
Hilton Worldwide owns and operates two hotels in the region (the Hilton Morumbi in São Paulo and the Caribe in San Juan), manages 27 for investors and has 37 franchise properties.
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