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Hilton posts strong growth in South America, including Venezuela.

BY CHRONICLE STAFF

Helped by increased demand for existing properties as well as the opening of new ones, Hilton Hotels is expanding its Latin American business.

"Overall business in the region was strong, with growth in volume of business - occupancy grew 5 points and overall sales by 20 percent," says Tom Potter, vice president for the South America region for Hilton Hotels Corporation.

The growth has spread out across the region, although Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela saw the strongest growth last year, according to the Hilton official, who declined to provide specific sales figures.

Potter oversees a stable that includes nine hotels in South America. Hilton currently operates hotels in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Belem and Sao Paulo, Brazil; Cartagena, Colombia; Guayaquil and Quito, Ecuador; and Barquisimeto, Caracas, and Margarita Island, Venezuela. Plans call for opening up two hotels in Argentina and one in Colombia. Meanwhile, major renovations are taking place at the hotels in Buenos Aires,  Cartagena, Guayaquil and Quito.

Growth is driven by a combination of business and leisure travel. "For Brazil it...

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