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Japan and Argentina vow to speed up talks on investment pact
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Argentine President Mauricio Macri agreed Monday to speed up negotiations for a bilateral investment accord as part of efforts to strengthen economic ties. As of 2015, the number of Japanese companies making their way into Argentina totaled 51, according to Japanese data. The Latin American country …

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LATIN BUSINESS TRAVELER

25 Feb - 10:51 AM
Best of Latin American Travel
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Hotels, meeting spaces and issues of interest in the region's top business destinations. Latin Trade magazine, one of Latin Business Traveler's sister publications, has come up with a definitive guide to the best travel experiences in Latin America in the region's top 10 business destinations. In the first part of our multi-part series on the Best of Travel, we share some of the insights from five of those cities. Next week, we'll share insights from the other five cities, plus more.  BOGOTÁ Most Improved Hotel: Crowne Plaza Tequendama Bogotá  This landmark Bogotá hotel, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2013, has invested $4.5 million in upgrades, and offers a more contemporary experience at the newer Crowne Plaza Suites Tequendama, which sits adjacent to the original property. Best Classic Style: Charleston Casa Medina  Elegant touches of Colonial-era style - including rich woodwork and suites with fireplaces - are among the reasons to check into this luxury hotel. Best Contemporary Style: B.O.G. Hotel  The first member of Design Hotels to debut in Colombia, B.O.G. is a gold-hued fashion statement, with minimalist architecture by designer Nini Andrade Silva and a heated rooftop swimming pool. Most Functional Hotel Meeting Space: Casa Dann Carlton Hotel Spa Bogotá Business travelers here can make use of 16 meeting rooms, as well as a tower with 237 guestrooms and a second tower with 91 apartments for long-term stays, and a business floor with a private restaurant, express check-in and check-out.  Best Hotel Value for the Price: Crowne Plaza Suites Tequendama  Full service and a central location - at rates below many large internationally branded hotels - make this property worth considering. Hilton Bogotá Best Hotel Concierge/Club Floor: Hilton Bogotá Executive rooms and suites offer access to the spacious, handsomely decorated executive lounge, where guests can enjoy a hot breakfast buffet, snacks and refreshments throughout the day.  Noteworthy Convention/Event Facility: Club El Nogal This social and business complex, founded by a group of businesspeople in 1989, organizes social, cultural and business events, and has its own catering and accommodations.  Best Equipped Convention/Event Facility: Corferias  With 22 pavilions, a 673,000-square-feet indoor area and 221 meeting rooms of various sizes, Corferias offers lots of options - and plans for a new convention facility on the site should be good news for business-minded folks as well. Interesting Meeting/Event Venues: Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá  Located about an hour outside of Bogotá, this unique religious complex - built deep inside a salt mine - offers memorable and surprisingly ample spaces for private meetings and events. Big Issue for Business Travel: The renovation and expansion of El Dorado airport is a major improvement over the previous facility, and additional upgrades are in the works. In addition, economic growth and stability have attracted new hotel investment, while a new convention center will increase its attractiveness for corporate gatherings. Cost of Doing Business: Reasonable (Maximum per diem rates per U.S. State Department - room rates $277, meal and incidental expenses $105, maximum per diem $382) BUENOS AIRES Most Improved Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires  In 2013, the Four Seasons wrapped up a $49 million renovation, introducing a new indoor-outdoor restaurant, a renovated spa and new meeting and event space. Best Classic Style: Alvear Palace Hotel  Appearing consistently at the top of reader's choice awards, the Alvear Palace exudes elegance, with Belle Époque architectural details, crystal chandeliers and attentive service. Best Contemporary Style: Faena Hotel + Universe  Designed by Philippe Starck, this Puerto Madero hotspot is both sumptuous and whimsical. Most Functional Hotel Meeting Space: Hilton Buenos AiresAmong the property's more than 71,000 square feet of meeting space is a 2,700-person boardroom, billed as the largest in the city. Best Hotel Value for the Price: Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel and Convention CenterWith a decidedly business-friendly attitude and lots of meeting space, the Sheraton offers a lot of amenities at competitive prices.  Best Hotel Concierge/Club Floor: Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires  Guests on the seventh and eighth floors have access to the e-lounge, which is luxuriously furnished with chandeliers, burgundy designer furniture and a furnished balcony with inspiring city views. Noteworthy Convention/Event Facility: Centro Costa SalgueroSix pavilions, capacity for more than 3,000 guests, and turnkey company party planning are among the selling points here. Best Equipped Convention/Event Facility: La RuralMultiple pavilions and a central location have helped keep this facility on top of the meetings and events market. Interesting Meeting/Event Venues: Señor Tango  Business travelers looking to tap into a bit of tango excitement can make use of this 43,040-square-foot space. Big Issue for Business Travel: The continued introduction of stylish boutique hotels ensures that business travelers will always have interesting alternatives to big-box chain hotels. Cost of Doing Business: Reasonable (room rates $221, meal and incidental expenses $121, maximum per diem $342) CARACAS Best Classic Style: Gran Meliá CaracasConservative luxury is the norm at this well-placed hotel, which also features am exclusive RedLevel category of accommodations with even more amenities. Best Contemporary Style: Renaissance Caracas La CastellanaBold colors and stylish furnishings make this one of the coolest places to stay in Venezuela's capital. Most Functional Hotel Meeting Space: Eurobuilding Hotel & Suites CaracasWith 50,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as 617 rooms in three categories - and a "Business Woman Floor" just for female travelers - the Eurobuilding is well positioned for business gatherings. Best Hotel Value for the Price: Embassy Suites by Hilton Caracas  Rooms equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, MP3 docks - as well as the hotel's on-site meeting space - make this a good home base for budget-minded business travelers. Best Hotel Concierge/Club Floor: JW Marriott Caracas  Free continental breakfast, midday snack, afternoon tea, hors d'oeuvres, dessert and non-alcoholic beverages are among the amenities in the 24-hour executive lounge, which offers lovely views of the mountains. Noteworthy Convention/Event Facility: World Trade Center ValenciaAttached to the Hotel Hesperia, the WTC has 38 meeting and event rooms, and lots of space for exhibits and trade shows. Best Equipped Convention/Event Facility: Foro XXI  A broad array of clients in technology, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and finance are among those that have made use of this venue, which has rooms that accommodate from five to 155. Interesting Meeting/Event Venues: Hard Rock Café Caracas Located in the Mall of Caracas, the 12,000-square-foot, 375-seat Hard Rock has multiple areas available for private corporate gatherings. Big Issue for Business Travel: Continued economic and government complications have slowed investment in hotels and meeting space, resulting in far fewer options than in neighboring nations. Cost of Doing Business: Expensive (room rates $314, meal and incidental expenses $193, maximum per diem $507) GUADALAJARA Most Improved Hotel: Presidente InterContinental Guadalajara  The shimmering Presidente features an attractive lobby lounge and crisply designed superior rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and great views. Best Classic Style: Quinta Real Guadalajara  With ambiance reminiscent of México's colonial era, the Quinta Real is graced with cobblestone paths and beautifully manicured gardens. Best Contemporary Style: Westin Guadalajara  Conveniently close to Expo Guadalajara, the Westin Guadalajara serves up contemporary style with lots of amenities. Most Functional Hotel Meeting Space: Hotel Riu Plaza Guadalajara  The Riu packs in nearly 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including 16 event rooms. Best Hotel Value for the Price: Hampton Inn by Guadalajara/Expo Close to Expo Guadalajara, the Hampton Inn offers a free hot breakfast and free transportation to the airport and other local destinations. Free Wi-Fi and business center access round out the value-added offerings. Best Hotel Concierge/Club Floor: Hotel Riu Plaza Guadalajara Guests staying in executive rooms and suites - as well as anyone with RIU Class Gold and RIU Class Diamond cards - have access to the Crown Level Executive Lounge, which has a meeting room, free soft drinks, beer and wine and snacks. The hotel also features a women's-only floor, with 25 specially appointed rooms reserved exclusively for female travelers. Noteworthy Convention/Event Facility: Teatro DegolladoThis neoclassical theater, which opened in 1866, hosts a variety of private meetings and events, with historic style. Best Equipped Convention/Event Facility: Expo Guadalajara  With more than 811,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space and proximity to thousands of hotel rooms, Expo Guadalajara dominates the convention market in the region. Interesting Meeting/Event Venues: Mundo Cuervo Located in the nearby town of Tequila, this distillery offers customized corporate group events, with spirited themes.  Big Issue for Business Travel: Increased options for business travelers are key in Guadalajara, thanks to the growth of low-cost domestic carriers as well as the recent debut of large new hotel brands including Riu Plaza and Westin. Still to come is the Frida Kahlo Guadalajara, a Luxury Collection property slated to open in 2015. Cost of Doing Business: Affordable (room rates $161, meal and incidental expenses $79, maximum per diem $240) LIMA Most Improved Hotel: Miraflores Park Hotel by Orient-Express  This luxury hotel shut its doors temporarily in December, and when it reopens in April 2014, guests will enjoy the benefits of a wide-ranging, $13.5 million upgrade on suites, bathrooms, meeting space and the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Bar. Best Classic Style: Country Club LimaA member of Leading Hotels of the World, Country Club Lima was built in 1927 and declared a Peruvian Cultural Monument, with rooms decorated in traditional style, complemented by Peruvian art. Best Contemporary Style: Hilton Lima Miraflores  One of Lima's newest luxury hotels, the Hilton exudes handsome, contemporary style, with marble bathrooms and deluxe rooms with soundproof floor-to-ceiling windows. The king executive room has a 231-square-foot balcony overlooking the Miraflores district. Most Functional Hotel Meeting Space: Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center  Some 17,514 square feet of meeting space and a 24-hour business center are among the draws for travelers looking to meet. Best Hotel Value for the Price: Sheraton Lima Hotel & Convention Center A central location and 15,802 square feet as well as reasonable rates, make this a good full-service value option. Best Hotel Concierge/Club Floor: JW Marriott Hotel Lima  Executive rooms have free in-room Wi-fi and access to the executive lounge, which offers free services including hot buffet breakfast, midday snack, afternoon tea, hors d'oeuvres, dessert, non-alcoholic beverages, free pressing of two garments per stay, light dinner, and free wine and pisco tasting from 5pm to 6:30pm. Noteworthy Convention/Event Facility: LarcomarLocated in the upscale Miraflores District, Larcomar is a retail complex with entertainment and restaurants that are ideal for group and individual business entertaining. Interesting Meeting/Event Venues: Museo Larco  This privately owned museum of pre-Columbian art, set in an 18th-century building, provides a dramatic setting for private corporate events. Big Issue for Business Travel: The expansion and upgrade of Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport should improve the travel experience for arriving and departing passengers, and the addition of new hotels will expand offerings in a variety of price points. Cost of Doing Business: Reasonable (room rates $250, meal and incidental expenses $89, maximum per diem $339) Next week, we'll share Best of Travel from Mexico City, Panama City, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile and São Paulo.  Hilton Bogota, courtesy of Hilton Worldwide; Sheraton Buenos Aires, courtesy of Starwood Hotels; JW Marriott Caracas, courtesy of Marriott International; The Westin Lima, courtesy of Starwood Hotels; Boardroom at the JW Marriott Hotel Lima, courtesy of Marriott Intenrational .
22 Aug - 7:14 AM
Hoteles para estadías prolongadas: Surgen lentamente en Latinoamérica
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Cocinas, escritorios y habitaciones más grandes han hecho a estos establecimientos populares en EE.UU., pero la expansión en el resto del continente americano se demora.Una kitchenette en la habitación, tarifas semanales y una habitación espaciosa diseñada para viajeros de negocios que permanecen más de una o dos noches, esta es la definición de los hoteles para "estadías prolongadas". Estas suites (u, ocasionalmente, habitaciones grandes) pueden incluir una decoración y mobiliario que las tornan sorprendentemente diferentes de la habitación común de hotel.   Una mayor cantidad de espacio es otro argumento de venta. Las suites suelen incluir áreas separadas para dormir, estar y trabajar, y hay una pequeña cocina con heladera completa, horno y, a menudo, lavavajilla. Los gimnasios y centros de negocios completan el panorama. Se suministra servicio de mucama y otras ofertas convenientes, como comidas listas (sándwiches y ensaladas). Las habitaciones pueden reservarse por día o por semana.   Esta categoría de hotel viene creciendo rápidamente en Estados Unidos. Hacia fin de mes, cuando el nuevo Homewood Suites by Hilton se inaugure para viajeros de negocios en la pequeña ciudad estadounidense de Kalispell, Montana, sobre la costa noroeste del Pacífico, se sumará a una familia de unos 325 establecimientos repartidos por todo Estados Unidos. Y muchos abrirán sus puertas pronto: tan solo Hilton Worldwide tiene en construcción otros 25 Homewood Suites y 60 más en la fase de planeamiento.   Estadías prolongadas en Latinoamérica y el Caribe En América Latina y el Caribe, sin embargo, los hoteles de estadías prolongadas se están adoptando con lentitud, aunque muchas ciudades grandes tienen aparthoteles, que suelen contar con un servicio de mucama menos frecuente y tarifas por habitación no tan flexibles. En Brasil hay una cantidad considerable de establecimientos de estadía prolongada de propiedad local, la mayoría de ellos ex condominios. A través de la región, solo un pequeño puñado de tales establecimientos es administrado por marcas internacionales importantes.   Dos de esas marcas están en São Paulo: Staybridge Suites de InterContinental Hotel Group y   Executive Apartments de Marriott. Staybridge Suites tiene otra ubicación a la región, en Guadalajara, México. El único otro establecimiento de Executive Apartments se encuentra en la Ciudad de Panamá.     Homewood Suites tiene tan solo un establecimiento en la región, ubicado en Torreón, la novena metrópoli más grande de México y una importante ciudad industrial ubicada en la parte central norte del país. Otra marca de Hilton Worldwide, la más nueva y limitada Home2 Suites by Hilton, inaugurará su primer hotel en México para fin de año. El establecimiento de 100 suites se está construyendo en Querétaro, un popular destino de negocios y ocio ubicado 216 kilómetros al noroeste de la Ciudad de México. Con precios levemente más bajos que los de Homewood Suites y sin hornallas en su kitchenette, Home2 Suites es descripto como una opción de estadía prolongada de "rango mediano".   Salo Smaletz es vicepresidente de InterContinental Hotel Group para desarrollo en Latinoamérica. Sobre la base de lo que ha observado en los varios años que lleva Staybridge Suites operando en São Paulo, cerca de 85% de los huéspedes están allí por negocios, en tanto 10% se identifican como viajeros de "ocio" y el restante 5% son clientes regulares como las tripulaciones de aerolíneas en escalas. El tiempo típico de ocupación es de tres a cuatro días, y la mayor concentración de clientes se da de domingo a jueves. Smaletz ve un crecimiento continuo en el mercado local conforme aumentan los viajes de negocios dentro de Brasil.   Planes de nuevos establecimientos "São Paulo ha tenido un auge como destino y la ocupación en general viene creciendo", señala Smaletz. "En los últimos cinco años, podemos decir con seguridad, nuestro establecimiento Staybridge Suites ha ganado dos a tres puntos de ocupación por año. Ahora está alrededor de 70 y pico en función de la ocupación anual".   El crecimiento en las tasas de ocupación ha sido lo suficientemente constante como para llevar a IHG a considerar otros proyectos en la región. "Siempre estamos buscando expandirnos en mercados donde haya demanda de productos de estadía prolongada", añade Smaletz. "Actualmente discutimos un par de oportunidades en Brasil y hemos firmado un acuerdo en Panamá para una inauguración en los próximos dos años".  
22 Aug - 7:08 AM
Extended Stay: Slowly Entering Latin America
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Kitchens, desks and larger rooms have made these properties popular in the U.S., but expansion in the rest of the Americas has been slow.An in-room kitchen, weekly rates and a spacious room designed for business travelers staying more than just a night or two - this defines the "extended stay" hotel. These suites (or, occasionally, large rooms) can include elegant and authentic décor and furnishings that make them strikingly different from a standard hotel room. More floor space is another selling point. Typically, such suites include separate sleeping, living and working areas and feature a small kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, oven and, often, dishwasher. Fitness and business centers round out the picture. Housekeeping is provided, and other conveniences include the availability of "grab-and-go" food items, such as sandwiches and salads. Rooms can be booked by the day or by the week.   This category of hotel has been growing quickly in the U.S. Later this month, when the new 100-room Homewood Suites by Hilton opens for business in the small U.S. city of Kalispell, Montana in the Pacific Northwest, it will join a family of some 325 properties across the U.S. And more will soon be coming online; Hilton Worldwide alone has another 25 Homewood Suites under construction and 60 more in the planning phase.   Extended Stay in Latin America and the Caribbean In Latin America and the Caribbean, however, extended stay hotels have been slow to catch on, although many large cities have apartment hotels, which tend to have less-frequent housekeeping and less-flexible room rates. There are a considerable number of locally owned extended-stay facilities in Brazil - most of them former condominiums. Throughout the region, only a small handful of such properties are under the management of leading international brands.   Two such brands are in São Paulo: InterContinental Hotel Group's Staybridge Suites and Marriott's Executive Apartments. However, Staybridge Suites' only other location is in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Executive Apartments' only other location is in Panama City. Homewood Suites has just one property in the region, located in Torreón, Mexico's ninth largest metropolis and an important industrial city in the north-central part of the country. Another Hilton Worldwide brand, the newer and more limited Home2 Suites by Hilton, will open its first hotel in Mexico by the end of this year. The 100-suite facility is being built in Querétaro, a popular business and leisure travel destination located 135 miles northwest of Mexico City. Priced slightly lower than Homewood Suites and offering no countertop burner in its kitchen, Home2 Suites is described as a "mid-range" extended-stay option.   Salo Smaletz is the InterContinental Hotel Group's vice president for Development in Latin America. Based on what's he's observed in the several years the firm's Staybridge Suites has been in operation in São Paulo, about 85% of guests are there for business, while 10% are identified as "leisure" travelers and the remaining 5% are such regular clients as airlines crews on layovers. The typical occupancy is from three to four days, with the greatest concentration of client from Sunday toThursday. Smaletz sees continual growth in the domestic market as business travel within Brazil increases.   Plans for New Properties Under Consideration "São Paulo has been booming as a destination and the occupancy in general has been growing," Smaletz points out. "In the past five years, it is safe to say, our Staybridge Suites property has gained two to three occupancy points every year. It's now around the high 70s in terms of yearly occupancy."   The growth in occupancy rates has been steady enough to lead IHG to consider other projects in the region. "We are always looking for expansion in markets where there is a demand for long-stay products," Smaletz adds. "We are currently having discussions on a couple of opportunities in Brazil and we have a deal signed in Panama that should open in the next two years or so."  
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Latin Business Traveler 26 Apr - 4:43 PM
Black Market Currency Trading: Worth the Risk?
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Exchanging dollars for local currency in Venezuela and Argentina can make sense, but carefully consider all the options first.Business travelers arriving in Venezuela and Argentina will quickly learn that trading U.S. dollars or Euros for local currency on the black market has become an ingrained part of daily routines. Spurred on by skyrocketing or wildly fluctuating exchange rates stemming from both countries' difficult economic conditions, many visitors simply abandon any attempt at legal currency exchange. Before deciding whether or not to dabble in these technically illegal transactions, however, it's important to carefully evaluate the risks and rewards of playing the black-market game. Company Credit Card or Reimbursement: Stay OfficialFor well-healed corporate travelers who either benefit from a generous per diem reimbursement rate from their company or who can simply put all of the expenses on the company credit card, it makes sense to avoid the possible pitfalls of the black market altogether. Even in Venezuela, where the high cost of such basic expenses as hotel rooms, dining and taxi rides make doing business in New York or London look downright inexpensive by comparison, the risk of running afoul of the law will likely outweigh the benefit of hefty savings on daily expenses. Tighter Budget: Consider Black-Market Exchange in VenezuelaFor those on a tighter budget, however, the 50% to 75% savings that black market currency exchanges provide may quickly add up to big savings. According to Xpatulator.com, a site that evaluates the cost of living of 732 cities in the world, Caracas ranks as the seventh most expensive place on earth. Venezuela's highly overvalued Bolivar currently trades on the official exchange rate at 4.3 Bolivar to 1 U.S. dollar. Given the vociferous hunger for dollars and Euros in that nation, black-market exchange rates of up to four times the official level can be obtained for sums of $1,000 or more. Even for a significantly smaller amount, those who hold cherished greenbacks, or even Euros, can receive two to three times more Bolivares than the official rate would permit. Visitors arriving at Maiquetía, the international airport that serves Caracas, will quickly be approached and invited to exchange currency if they project even the slightest appearance of a foreign businessperson or tourist. During a typical stay in the country, such visitors will be approached time and time again and invited to change dollars at a very beneficial rate. A discrete inquiry to a hotel bellman or taxi driver will also open the door to black market-type transactions. In Argentina: Little Black-Market AdvantageIn Argentina, the cost of living is not as inflated. So, although the same basic structure of unofficial currency trading exists, the financial benefits of black-market ventures, compared to the situation in Venezuela, are somewhat more modest. The Argentine Peso currently trades at just less than 5 pesos to 1 U.S. dollar. The black market rate of around 7 pesos to the dollar represents about a 40% benefit. Avoid Illegalities by Negotiating to Pay in DollarsA common practice that negates the outright illegality of black market trading is offering to pay for goods and services with dollars. If the offer is accepted - and given the high demand for U.S. currency, it often is - the rate in Argentina generally falls between the official and black market rates, producing a net benefit of about 20%. In Venezuela more than double that benefit can be anticipated. Before deciding to exchange currency via the black market, consider the risks and the benefits, and always remember that it is illegal. Just like jaywalking, however, many do it without giving it a second thought.