Latin trade's best of travel.

Author:Chesnut, Mark
Position:LATIN TRADE 2013 READERS' CHOICE - Cover story
 
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Along with religion and politics, travel is a topic that produces very strong opinions. Whether they're raving about the best airplane seat or ranting about the worst hotel restaurant., nearly every business traveler is well equipped to launch into a list of their best and worst travel experiences.

In Latin America--as in the rest of the world--the travel industry is in a state of flux, as airlines merge, airports struggle to handle more passengers, and hoteliers and destinations react to economies that are booming in some places and struggling in others. No one knows this better than the readers of Latin Trade, who seem to cross national borders within the Americas the way that other people cross a street in their hometown.

To help harried business travelers navigate the region and point them in the direction of the best possible experiences, we've assembled a group of well-traveled experts to rank and rate a variety of hotels, destinations, airports and meeting venues throughout the region. Our expert panel includes a crucial cross-section of savvy travelers and objective industry experts--including frequent business travelers, travel agents and destination management companies, the organizations that make meetings happen around the globe. The results offer unique insight into the very best options for travelers in Latin America--and helpful guidelines for the months of travel that lie ahead.

BEST HOTELS

The expansion of international hotel brands in Latin America is, in many regions, continuing an impressive growth trajectory. In Brazil, mid-market chains are growing especially quickly, largely in response to the growing middle class and, in Rio de Janeiro, also to prepare for the large influx of visitors expected to attend the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Bogota and Panama City also stand out as cities with substantial growth in hotel investment and the debut of new international brands, while San Juan, Puerto Rico, is aiming to recast itself as a destination for meetings and conventions with new group-friendly upscale properties in the works.

Hotels serve such a diverse group of clientele that it's necessary to break them down into multiple categories in order to provide an accurate picture of which properties are best. And even within each ranking category, there may not be a black-and-white best answer--especially when it comes to ranking things like value for the money, notes Vera Joppert, a member of Latin Trades expert panel for this issue and the director of Turismo Classico, a destination management company in Rio de Janeiro. Through her years of experience in the "Cidade Maravilhosa," she knows well that what you pay for a hotel one month may be very different from the rate just a couple months later. In other words, you might get more for your money at one time of year than another, based on occupancy and peak travel trends. "This will always depend on the particular situation of each property for the requested date," she says. "This applies to each and every city."

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MEETINGS MARKET

Latin America is a closely watched region by the International Congress and Convention Association (Icca), a global organization that represents specialists in organizing, transporting and accommodating international meetings and events, with more than 950 member companies and organizations in 88 countries around the world.

To host its 51st world congress, Icca chose the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, a destination that saw its number of international meetings grow from 9 in 2010 to 30 in 2011 (Icca's 2012 figures had not been released as of press time). The increase represents a jump in Puerto Rico's worldwide rankings (measured by number of international association meetings per country) from 77th place in 2010 to 56th in 2011 and, in the regional North and Latin American rankings, from 18th to 12th position.

Latin America overall is becoming a more popular area for international meetings, according to Icca figures, with a steadily increasing market share over the past decade. And while the United States may lead the hemisphere in terms of number of international meetings, other nations lead when broken down by city.

According to the most recent Icca rankings, here are the western hemisphere's most important countries and cities in the international meetings and convention segment:

Number of meetings by country: 1. USA: 759 2. Brazil: 304 3. Canada: 255 4. Argentina: 186 5. Mexico: 175 6. Colombia: 113 7. Chile: 87 8. Peru: 55 9. Uruguay: 46 10. Paraguay: 34 Number of meetings by city: 1. Buenos Aires: 94 2. Rio de Janeiro: 69 3. Sao Paulo: 60 4. Vancouver: 55 5. (tie): Mexico City: 51 Washington D.C.: 51 7. Montreal: 50 8. Santiago: 49 9. (tie) Bogota: 44 Boston: 44 Lima: 44 Toronto: 44 Fuente: www.iccaworld.com THE WINNERS

(Note: Hotels are presented in alphabetical order, not in order of votes)

BEST LOCATED HOTELS FOR BUSINESS ACTIVITIES Asuncion: Sheraton Asuncion Bogota: Charleston Casa Medina, JW Marriott Bogota...

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