TravelMart Latin America Wraps up

How we love the second day of a trade show. The floor isn’t as busy as the opening day, allowing us the opportunity to sit down with with some important suppliers and tourist boards. Here’s what Travel Agent found on this day at TravelMart Latin America.

Barcelo to Open First Property in Guatemala, Second in Nicaragua (Exclusive)

We sat down with Florencia Carbonell, sales manager for Barcelo Longosta Beach, and learned that Barcelo Hotels and Resorts will be opening its first property in Guatemala and its second in Nicaragua. Both properties are tentatively scheduled to open in 2009 and will each have between 120-150 rooms, we learned. Carbonell also told us about Barcelo Longosta Beach’s recent additions. The property in Guanacaste, Costa Rica recently unveiled 78 new rooms, bringing its total from 120 to 198. Among the rooms are six junior suites, four regular suites and one master suite. The master suite is now the property’s best room, sporting two-floors each with a balcony and a Jacuzzi located in the bedroom. For more information, agents should contact Carbonell at 011-506-220-2034, ext. 768 or Visit

Sonesta to Open Property in Medellin, Colombia in 2010 (Exclusive)

It was a year ago at TravelMart Latin America in Cartagena, Colombia when we learned the destination was soon to be a Latin America tourism giant. Since then, Cartagena and Bogota have increased significantly in tourism and we now learn that Medellin is next. Sonesta Hotels will open a 125-room hotel in the destination in 2010, says Juan Rodriguez Medina, marketing and sales director for GHL Hoteles, which manages such companies as Sonesta, Sheraton and Howard Johnson, to name a few. The destination also recently unveiled a Radisson Hotel. For years, Medellin has been known as one of the most dangerous areas in Colombia. But with events like the annual Flower Fair in August, along with its revitalized infrastructure and booming nightlife, Medellin has become a safe destination for business travelers as well as young clients looking to dance the night away. We expect more airlift and hotels to set up shop here within the next few years. Keep it on your radar.

Belize to Get Marriott, Rosewood? (Exclusive)

We’re not big on reporting rumors, but when they come from the director of the Belize Tourism Board we feel like they have enough legs to report on. Mariam Roberson, Belize’s tourism director, told us the destination is looking into adding both a Marriott hotel as well as a Rosewood. Roberson told us the plans are “pure hearsay that’s coming just from me,” but we figured we’d share the idea in the event that it comes to fruition. We think there’s a good chance that luxury brands like Rosewood will in fact develop in Belize because it appears that is the direction in which the destination is heading. It recently added a new marketing firm and plans to focus its attention on the luxury, wedding destination and honeymoon destination markets. We’ll keep you posted when we have more details.

Cartagena, Colombia Proves Hosting TravelMart Latin America is Worth It

We sat down with Zully Salazar Fuentes, manager of leisure tourism for ProExport, Colombia´s tourism board, and learned that the destination has benefited immensely from hosting last year's TravelMart Latin America. For example, last year the destination conducted about 10 business appointments on the first day of the event. On the first day of this year’s event, it condcuted nearly 25, Fuentes says.

“Last year, we felt that many people may have heard something about Colombia but we didn’t really feel like there was much interest,” Fuentes told us. “This year, everyone knows us as an exotic destination and needs to know about us. Last year, they wanted to know. This year, they tell us they need to know because everyone is asking.”

Cartagena also saw a major boost to its cruise industry about 15 days ago when Disney Crusie Line called in Cartagena for the first time. Fuentes told us Cartagena received about one million visitors last year. As of July, it had already received 800,000 visitors, putting it well on pace to breaking its 2007 numbers.

Why Agents Should Know Puerto Varas, Chile

Travel Agent sat down with TravelMart Latin America creator William H. Coleman Wednesday. Coleman, who started the event 32 years ago, told us that one of the main factors in picking the show’s host destination is whether that destination is serious about tourism. After we sat down with Bettina Holzmann, director of the meeting and planning company Meet Inn Patagonia, we learned why Patagonia, Chile was chosen as the host for next year’s event. Although the actual show will take place in the small town of Frutillar, located in the Patagonia region of the country, Puerto Valaras will host most of the events.

Puerto Valaras certainly meets the needs Coleman told us about. In fact, two of the host hotels for next year’s event haven’t even opened yet and another just opened about a year ago. Sol Melia, Patagonia opened its doors about a year ago while Enjoy Hotel & Casino and Colones Del Sol, both in Puerto Valaras, will open in December. The event is expected to boost attention to the little known southern portion of Chile.

Attendees will fly to Santiago, Chile, where they will connect on a nearly two-hour flight to Puerto Montt. Puerto Varas is a mere 10-minute drive from Puerto Montt. The destination, like most Latin America getaways, offers eco- and soft-adventure travel. Since Cartagena, Colombia and now Quito, Ecuador are building steam from hosting TravelMart Latin America, expect Patagonia, Chile to do the same. Start learning about it now so that you’re prepared when the countless amount of young, adventure-seeking clients come knocking on your door asking about it. You heard it here first, southern Chile will be absolutely huge in 2009 and beyond. An official web page is expected to be launched in about eight weeks with further details for the event, which will run from September 23–25. When we get them, we’ll pass them along.