Turning on the taps: economic trends, government policies and speculation are driving tourism and hospitality investment into Latin America's untapped tourism potential.

Author:Chesnut, Mark
Position::SPECIAL REPORT: HOSPITALITY
 
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A recent report from the World Economic mm highlights the optimism that drives investment in Latin America's hospitality and tourism segments. But, it also underscores the challenges and vast country-by-country differences that prevent further opportunities for investors.

Latin America has "untapped market potential for tourism, especially considering its natural resources and culture," said Thea Chiesa, the World Economic Forum's Geneva-based director and head of aviation, travel and tourism industries. "It's vast, and it's not as visited as it should be."

The Forum's recently released Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report for 2013 compares 140 economies worldwide. In the Americas, the results require a fine-tuned analysis, given the widely different conditions in each country.

Among the Latin American nations faring best in the rankings is Panama, which jumped to number 37 position globally and fourth in the Americas. While the report said that the country's most important competitive advantages are its endowment of natural resources, protected land areas and World Heritage sites, it also emphasized that Panama's improved ranking is mainly due to infrastructure improvements. Some $842 million was injected into tourism and hospitality last year, while a new Metro rail system and convention center are underway and airport expansion continues.

The World Economic Forum is not the only organization talking about Latin America's appeal for investors in hospitality and tourism. During the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in January, Jones Lang LaSalle's Hotels & Hospitality Group reported that Latin American economies are expected to grow by 4 percent annually through 2020--creating further opportunities for travel, tourism and hospitality. Jones Lang LaSalle predicted that Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru will show the most growth in these sectors.

SEEKING STABILITY

Overall, Chile maintains one of the most stable reputations in Latin America for investors in hospitality and tourism. It ranks ninth in the region and 56th globally in the World Economic Forum's report, which praised Chile's policy rules and regulations as conducive to tourism and travel development, with few foreign ownership restrictions, a liberal visa regime, and bilateral air service agreements.

"Chile is very developed economically, so it's not difficult to invest in any area," according to Nicolas Sahil, managing partner at The Singular...

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