Plaza de la Independencia, a/k/a Plaza Grande, in Quito, Ecuador.
More than 800 travel buyers and sellers were in Quito, Ecuador, last month to do business at the 37th Travel Mart Latin America (TMLA). Travel Agent was also on hand and learned about some interesting developments that bode well for Latin America’s tourism future.
For starters, we sat down with Patricio Gaybor, general director of Quito Turismo, who told us his city is looking to increase its luxury hotel portfolio to keep up with other Latin American destinations such as Panama and Peru, which are doing the same.
“We are working in that direction,” he told us. “We own four historic buildings in the ‘Old Town’ and plan to reach out to brands like Six Senses [Hotels, Resorts & Spas], Kempinski [Hotels] and Orient-Express [Hotels].”
The timing is right for Quito to perhaps get at least two of those brands. Kempinski announced its re-entry into Latin America in April of last year with the signing of a management contract for a new luxury resort in Colón Province, Panama. The company now has an active pipeline in the Western Hemisphere, including projects in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Rio de Janeiro.
In February, Six Senses announced new-build properties across five countries. All are scheduled for completion by 2016. The new additions will include the brand’s Western Hemisphere debut, with properties under development in Colombia, as well as Saint Lucia and the Dominican Republic.
“Orient-Express isn’t just looking at Quito,” said Gaybor. “I think they want their first hotel in Ecuador to be in Quito and then they will look at other parts of the country, such as the Galapagos.”
We also met with several members of INTUR, the Institute of Tourism for Nicaragua, and learned that the destination will continue to revamp its hotel product, shortly after opening the country’s first-ever five-star resort. Dina Joseph Hodgson, director of promotion and marketing for INTUR, and other members of the tourism institute told us that the destination will be home to a new Wyndham Hotels and Resorts property by next year, while Hyatt Hotels and Resorts plans to set up shop in the country within the next two years. Both hotels are expected to reside in Managua, the nation’s capital.
The hotel development wave can perhaps be traced to Mukul Resort & Spa, the country’s first five-star hotel, which opened earlier this year. Before Mukul, the destination was home to mostly boutique hotels.
All of this new development will give Nicaragua the new product it needs to keep its momentum going following one of the most successful years in the country’s tourism history. In fact, it was reported in November of last year that tourism is one of the country’s fastest-growing economic sectors.
Tourist arrivals increased in the past few years to become Nicaragua’s largest industry. From January through September 2012, tourism to Nicaragua increased 11 percent, leading to an 11.45 percent increase in foreign investment. INTUR representatives told us the country is on pace for a 12 percent increase this year.
The increase in tourism is in part due to easier access to Nicaragua and to its more remote regions. Travelers have enjoyed the improved roads and more plentiful and accessible flights. Cruise lines are also stopping in Nicaragua’s ports and will be increasing in number come 2014 when the port of San Juan del Sur finishes its renovations. The colonial city of Granada was the most popular Nicaraguan tourist site for 2012, accounting for 41.12 percent of the tourists visiting the country’s top five tourist destinations.
Regarding future editions of Travel Mart Latin America, William H. Coleman of William H. Coleman, Inc., the show’s organizer, told us that Salta, Argentina, which is in the midst of perhaps the most aggressive tourism push in its history, will be the host for next year’s event, which will run around mid-September.
“We are very excited to host the show next year and are hoping that this opens up our destination to the U.S. market and other international markets,” Fernando Escudero, general manager for the Tourism Promotion Institute of Salta, told Travel Agent. “We are very successful with the local market, but it’s time to expand. We are hoping to one day become the eco-tourism capital of Latin America.”
The 2015 event will be in Central America, with Panama at the top of the list of possible sites, and Lima, Peru, is being considered to host the 40th Travel Mart Latin America in 2016.