BelizeINVEST, BELTRAIDE participated in the 2015 Hotel Opportunities Latin America (HOLA) Investment Conference which took place at the J.W. Marriott Marquis in Miami, FL on April 28 – 30, 2015. HOLA is designed to provide an annual meeting place for over 400 hotel executives, investors, lenders, developers and the professional advisory community who are interested in doing deals in one of the world’s hottest hotel markets – Latin America and the Caribbean, which also includes Belize.
One of the key discussion points of course included that of Cuba as the undiscovered Tourism destination as per the recent dialogue on the U.S. dropping its embargo. Indeed, the natural authentic and untouched beauty of Cuba makes it a very attractive destination for hotel and resort developers. Other Latin America and Caribbean destinations demonstrated some concern on Cuba opening up its market and having impacts on their visitor levels; however, it is generally believed that Cuba will not, in fact, create a threat to other destinations like Belize, but rather it will induce a new demand to the region as a whole.
Another key discussion focused on opportunities in Central America where there are still many areas that have not yet been explored. Panelists and brand representatives deemed Central America as an emerging market considering that Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala hold a combined room inventory of 165,086 with 13% of those reported as 4 or 5 star hotel properties. Belize would contribute another 7,428 rooms from the 805 licensed hotels countrywide as of 2014 showcasing that Belize is also a key player in the Central American Tourism market with much room for growth in the accommodation space. (BTB, 2014)
Brand leaders emphasized that most of the opportunities in Central America revolve around the opening of select or limited service hotels due to a better profile fit and return on investment requirements. The major brands also voiced interest in continuing to develop all-inclusive projects in the region. The conference projected a keen focus on hotel occupancy in Central America since supply has been outpacing demand since mid-2012. An emphasis on this current strategy to attract demand is critical to support further hospitality development in Central America with much enthusiasm and optimism. Overall, the construction pipeline in Central America is described to be robust and healthy as experts recommend having the region focus on a strategic plan to boost occupancy.
Finally, a key area of opportunity for Belize discussed at the conference would be in the lifestyle space. The lifestyle brand is driven by the customer and moved by five key drivers under the umbrella of “authenticity” including (1) local relevance, (2) guest connectivity with the hotel, (3) excellent technology, (4) quality food and beverage with emphasis on local flavors and (5) communal or social areas. The key advantages of lifestyle brands is that they do not take the “cookie cutter” approach as many other branded hotels do and instead aim at being dynamic and trendy. The lifestyle brand concept looks at hotels being flexible towards their consumers enabling the exploration of local flavors and the opportunity to “wow” guests with an innovative product not yet present in the area.
Indeed, new hotel developments in Belize are already leaning towards the lifestyle brand niche going from a beachside boutique resort with thatched roofing such as Ramon’s Village to an eco-friendly jungle themed resort such as La Milpa or Chan Chich. Belizean hoteliers continue to lean towards low density and high value developments offering tourists a niche of localized services and amenities. There are still new areas and phenomenon of hotel development that Belize can explore applying innovative architectural and management techniques offering guests more reason to stay in beautiful Belize. BelizeINVEST, the Investment Promotion arm of BELTRAIDE, continues to work with tourism developments throughout Belize while providing on-time support to incentivizing applicable developments. For more information, contact BelizeINVEST, BELTRAIDE at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +501-822-3737 / 0175
Sources: 3 Hot Topics Presented at HOLA Investment Conference 2015 – HVS