La Quinta Pushes Into South America With New Prototype

As La Quinta Inns & Suites gears up to increase its South American and Central American development pipeline, Travel Agent spoke with the company’s development team to get their thoughts on what makes the region rife with opportunity for hotel development.

“As I look at economic trends, growth indicates that a select-service product is going to be what pops onto the scene in Latin America,” said Edgar Garin, La Quinta’s new director of franchise development for South and Central America.

Prior to joining La Quinta, Garin held the top Latin American development post at Radisson.

“The actual and latent demand in the economies make it attractive to investors, and the product, which has a great reputation here, translates beautifully. La Quinta is as Hispanic as one can get, and the prototypes that have been developed will really work.”

La Quinta’s new prototype for Mexico, which costs less and calls for smaller rooms, will help the brand to develop more properties. “Our prototype as we go into Mexico is somewhat different from our U.S. prototype,” said David Wilner, corporate VP of development. “Typical rooms are around 280 square feet, all the way up to 315, with a breakfast component. One thing we are committed to is having a very clean, consistent product that meets expectations for experience.”

Overall, the brand will work to grow in South American countries where there is ample demand for select-service product. “In 2012, we’re hoping to have news in Colombia and Brazil; we’re working with two large groups right now in negotiations on some exciting opportunities,” said Wilner. “Our 2011 in Mexico was phenomenal. We opened five hotels bringing the total count up to eight with another 20 under development. Now we’re carrying the momentum south of Mexico.”

In addition to the cheaper cost to build, Garin says arranging financing will be more efficient than it has been in the U.S. “Financing structures work very differently in these countries,” said Garin. “For select service, we’re looking at much cheaper supply and labor costs. Land is the highest cost, because chances are the families have owned the land for generations, so the high-cost element gets eliminated in the partnership.”

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