Investorideas.com Q&A; Proexport Colombia's Trade Commissioner Alvaro Concha Gives Insight into Hotel Industry Growth and How Colombia is Making Headlines Across the Board
Colombia Sees 6.3% GDP Growth First Quarter; Second Only to China
Colombia’s World Cup Performance and 'Superstar in the Making' James Rodriguez add to a Changing Global Perception
Investorideas.com WA, NEW YORK, Canada - July 22, 2014 (www.investorideas.com newswire) Investorideas.com, a global news source covering leading sectors including Latin America, releases an exclusive interview which provides insight into Colombia’s growth, with a focus on the hotel industry. Proexport Colombia's Trade Commissioner Alvaro Concha discusses the changing global perception of the country and how Colombia continues to be a go-to destination for both business and tourists.
Good morning Alvaro, I imagine all of Colombia is both excited and a little sad about the World Cup performance. Making it to the quarter finals and the amazing goals by James Rodriguez definitely put Colombia on the map to viewers from around the world.
It seems to be a great time for Colombia in a lot of ways. You just reported significant hotel industry growth and a rise in foreign visitor growth. Can you break down the numbers in foreign visitor growth in terms of countries of origin and where they visit most?
Yes, thank you. We are more happy than sad. Colombia did a wonderful job. We now have another good reason to make the headlines. And if we keep stacking up positives, we will be recognized more and more for good reasons like this versus the bad reasons of the past.
The Juan Manuel Santos government has put a main objective by the end of 2014 of 4 million foreign visitors and we are pretty close, we are already at 3.7 million. Colombia is growing three times faster than the rest of the world in terms of tourism. The United States is the number one country visiting, also a few European countries, including Spain, is in the top group. Canada is always in the top ten; dropped out last year but always in the top group with over 44,000 visitors per year. We are targeting the Canadian eco-tourism market to attract more visitors as well. We are actively working with the tourism operators and the airline operators to promote what Colombia has to offer.
Also I see there was substantial increase in business visitors, indicating an ongoing interest and growth in doing business in Colombia. Can you give us some insight as to what sectors of business and what cities are being concentrated on?
First thing to say is that Canadian companies are leading mining investment in Colombia. Also a lot of oil and gas companies, with one of the biggest company in oil and gas exploration being a Canadian based company. There is also a lot of other interest from pension funds, financial entities and infrastructure companies looking at Colombia. That is increasing every day, making Colombia a good destination for business. There are also at least two financial entities in Canada that are looking at opening operations in Colombia. Also in terms of the ICCA ( http://www.iccaworld.com ) global ranking, we keep improving and are now 28 th, up from 32 nd. This ranks the most attractive and secure countries for conventions. This makes Colombia an attractive destination to host meetings and conventions.
In terms of hotel growth, can you break down the growth in terms of investment and new hotels being built and again where are you seeing the most hotels going in?
Colombia has 32 projects underway in the hotel sector, with some of them being hotels looking for investment to improve their current infrastructure and some looking for startup capital. The hospitality industry has been growing at a rate of about 200% in the last four years. We are adding almost 7000 new rooms that will be added to the 15,200 rooms that were built from 2004 to 2012. A total of $75 million USD are being invested in new properties. In terms of areas, it’s all across the country and broken down by leisure or business. Bogotá has a lot of business growth, with Medellín and Cali benefiting as well from this boom. The main cities that need more hotels for business in particular are Bogotá, Cali and Medellín.
And can you tell us what hotel chains are now entering the market and who is looking at coming in?
Right now Marriott, the Radisson, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Sonesta, Hyatt and other lead chains are already operating in Colombia and many others, like the W brand, are close to opening their doors.
New properties include:
Bastion Luxury Hotel (Cartagena) -The Bastion Luxury Hotel, which opened in Cartagena under GHL Hotels, has 51 luxury bedrooms and is modeled after 16th century colonial era buildings, though mixed with modern art and architecture. Located in the heart of Cartagena's historic district, the Bastion Luxury Hotel is perfect for travelers looking to explore the city's sites.
Cali Marriott Hotel (Cali) - The Cali Marriott Hotel opened in February 2014 in Granada, the heart of Cali's financial and entertainment district. Ideally located with 170 hotel rooms and modern amenities, the hotel includes the Tanoshii Lounge, a bar integrated into the outdoor pool and terrace where visitors can enjoy music, food and beverages and a vibrant atmosphere.
Radisson Cartagena Ocean Pavillion Hotel (Cartagena) - A new luxury hotel located on the gorgeous La Boquilla Beach in Cartagena, Radisson Cartagena Ocean Pavillion Hotel offers 233 rooms and premium on-site amenities including an outdoor pool, restaurants and bars and a state-of-the-art fitness center. The property opened in February 2014, and makes exploring attractions such as the ancient walled city district and the Fortress of San Felipe de Barajas easy and convenient.
Hotel Movich Buro 26 (Bogota) - Bogota's Buro 26, which opened in April 2014, is the newest addition to the Movich Hotels. The 252 room hotel, adjoined to El Dorado International Airport, is convenient for all travelers seeking modern amenities, event space, fine dining, a trendy bar and lounge and top of the line gym and spa facilities.
W Bogota Hotel (Bogota) - Slated to open in September 2014, W Bogota Hotel is a 168 room property, including 33 suites and an Extreme Wow Suite, in the upscale Santa Barbara Business Center. With its convenient location, modern amenities and 818 square meters of dynamic function venues, the hotel will be an ideal place for both business and leisure travel.
Where do you still see the biggest need for new hotels, what cities and areas?
In terms of business infrastructure, the main cities that need more hotels for business in particular are Bogotá, and Medellín. For example, this week the city is hosting Colombiamoda, Colombia's Fashion Week, one of the most important shows with over 1800 international buyers from 50 different nationalities.
We are taking 35 companies from Canada to the event and the city is sold out for hotels. Cartagena is the major target to grow in terms of business and tourism. Cartagena needs investment in resorts and there are several projects being presented to potential investors.
On a related note to hotel growth, I watched a segment on CNN that talked about restaurant growth in Colombia - they looked at Bogoatáa and Cali for new and exciting restaurants - scale up from casual dining - reflecting the new money in the country from visitors and locals. Is this something Pro export is working on?
I can tell you that the restaurant industry is growing very fast. The last numbers I heard was that Bogotá now has over 600 new different restaurants and you will find a varied international and local cuisine mix. I see one or two new restaurants in Medellín, Cartagena or Bogotá every time I go. Restaurants are part of that hospitality sector that is growing at 200% annually.
We have talked about it before, but for new readers, why is Colombia such a safe place for investment?
According to the Central Bank in regards to FDI we had an 8% increase in 2013. We are considered one of the top 20 destinations in the world for foreign direct investment. According to the World Bank for doing business Colombia is third in the region. We are number one in the region to better protect investors and we are ranked 6 th in the world in that index.
We are ranked first in the region for skilled labor.
Colombia is not only a safe country but it's also a very strong competitor when you think about investing in the region We are the third largest economy in the region after Mexico and Brazil.
We have the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world after Mexico.
Our unemployment rate is the lowest in the past twenty years. We are now at 8.5% and the government is working seriously on improving that number.
Our GDP growth last year was 4.3%
This year, the first quarter is showing growth at 6.3 %, second only to China in the world. This is the fastest growth in Latin America.
How is Colombia set up for technology and IT for new companies looking at coming into the country?
We have an established IT Ministry that is looking at how to improve our competiveness in this sector and we have a growing industry. You will find at least 2500 different export companies in the IT sector including mobile applications, software development, gaming and digital animation. That is where we are concentrating our efforts. Medellíin wants to be the most innovative city in the world and was in fact named exactly that last year by Citi Bank.
There are several Hubs but Medellín is one of the most promising and is looking at becoming the IT Hub in the country. This city is driven at looking after the IT sector.
In terms of labor, the number of graduates in engineering fields is very much on the rise. There is also a training institute in Colombia where you can actually train your staff and the government will help. We have done it in the past for Canadian companies where trained employees are now working.
We are also hosting a Business Matchmaking Forum for It and Software in New York this week with 70 companies from Colombia meeting companies from the US and Canada.
We are also members of the Pacific Alliance; and 74% of the high and medium technology products exported from Latin America are coming from the Pacific Alliance members.
If you were to summarize some of the key successes of Proexport, what would you say are some of the most important?
As Colombia's Trade Commissioner in Canada, for the past three years that I have been here we have diversified our portfolio not only in the investment side but also in trade. We thought and believed there were other sectors that needed to be invited to the party. Today we are seeing the pension funds investing in our country but also seeing other companies and other sectors looking at investing in a more precise way.
In the trade side, we have taken full advantage of the Free Trade Agreement. We have over 140 new products that have been exported to Canada and over 350 new companies are selling in the Canadian market.
Thanks as always and let's hope you take the World Cup next time!
About ALVARO CONCHA
Alvaro Concha, Colombia's Trade Commissioner in Canada since 2011, is an experienced professional with over 15 years' experience in global business and market-development strategies. As head of the Canadian offices of Proexport Colombia - the country's investment, tourism and export promotion agency - Mr. Concha has worked tirelessly to strengthen Colombia's trade relationship with Canada. Mr. Concha's leadership has resulted in a significant increase in Colombian exports to Canada, the securing of a new roster of important Canadian investors in Colombia, and a surge in the number of Canadian tourists visiting Colombia.
Before being appointed to Canada, Mr. Concha worked as Colombia's trade commissioner in Italy and headed the joint Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador office headquartered in Guatemala City. Throughout his career in Proexport Colombia, his goal has remained the same: to bring prosperity to all Colombians by bringing the best of Colombia to the rest of the world.
Mr. Concha holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from EAFIT University in Medellin, Colombia, and an MBA from the EEN - Escuela Europea de Negocios in Madrid, Spain.
Proexport provides business opportunities, clear information on requirements, strategies for expanding services and goods at an international level, participation in business fairs and assistance by experts for investors, exporters, and professionals that wish to come closer to their dreams.
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