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Women Leaders in Focus at CHRIS and HOLA Conferences

The 14th Annual Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) and 13th Annual Hotel Opportunities in Latin America (HOLA) conference, hosted by BHN/Northstar, took place this week at the Loews Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, where a diverse array of speakers shared their perspectives on the future of the hospitality market. With a combined 800 people in attendance, the conferences were the perfect size for ample networking opportunities. “This conference is great because it’s not huge, and you can really have good conversations with people,” said Andrea Belfanti, CEO, ISHC.

Isabella Suffredini (Student at Cornell University Hotel School), Julienne Smith (Chief Development Officer, Americas, IHG), Stacy Silver (President, Silver Hospitality Group)
Isabella Suffredini (Student at Cornell University Hotel School), Julienne Smith (Chief Development Officer, Americas, IHG), Stacy Silver (President, Silver Hospitality Group)

A Student Ambassador’s Perspective

As a Student Ambassador from the Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration for the conference, and a first-time attendee, I was impressed that events this size could have such an intimate feel. I found it inspiring to speak with and learn from industry leaders about the future of the regions and various emerging opportunities within the sector. I was particularly impressed by the caliber of the women leaders and their willingness to share advice with a young person like myself entering the profession. I highly recommend the opportunity to attend next year’s CHRIS/HOLA conferences to my pre-professional colleagues.

Major Market Trends for the Caribbean and South America

Overall, the Caribbean and South American markets are bouncing back, and the discussions at both conferences were positive. Some key points include:

  • Strong Recovery in Caribbean, Slower in Americas: The Caribbean market is bouncing back faster than any other sector. ADR is strong, and demand is not slowing. The Luxury market performed better than expected in 2022, and 2023 is performing even better. In Q1 of 2023, Caribbean traffic was only down 1% versus 22% in the Americas, which compares favorably to total international traffic, which was down 31% over 2019 levels.

  • Heightened Desire for Leisure Travel: Leisure demand is up significantly in the Caribbean region. “For people who haven’t traveled before, now it is their time to travel. Post COVID, everyone is looking for an escape, and something new to do, and the Caribbean provides them that,” said Julianna Musgrove, Regional Learning and Development Manager, Sandals Resorts International, and winner of the Rising Star Award Caribbean.

  • Repositioning Focus in Latin America Region: During HOLA, the development discussion centered around conversions and acquisitions. Herman Bern Jr., President, Bern Hotels & Resorts, and Francisco Alejandro Zinser, EVP, Grupo Hotelero Santa Fe, spoke of their hesitancy concerning new development in the current climate due to high-interest rates and inflation costs.

What’s Next for Development

Innovation to accommodate the shifting post-pandemic demands of families and leisure travelers was a hot topic at the conference. Here are some highlights:

  • Opportunities in All-Inclusive: Throughout all of the conversations about trends in development, the most discussed topic was all-inclusive opportunities. Isabel de Claires, Director, Investment Banking, CIBC FirstCaribbean, spoke of the large number of all-inclusive properties in their pipeline. The opportunities are more prominent in the Caribbean but still apparent in The Americas.

  • Community-Focus Emphasis: “The Caribbean really hasn’t fulfilled its potential yet,” said Karolin Troubetzkoy, Executive Director, Marketing and Operations, Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain Resorts, and CHRIS Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Troubetzkoy discussed opportunities to expand on the traditional product of “sun, sand, and sea” and provide guests unique community and resort experiences. Through community-focused development and hospitality, “we have a tremendous opportunity to highlight the diversity of the region,” Troubetzkoy emphasized. This focus on localization and community-oriented leisure experiences will differentiate hotels in these luxury resort markets.

  • Health and Wellness Demand: Nicola Madden-Grieg, President, CHTA and Group Director of Marketing & Sales, CHG, shared that more than ever, “customers are looking for more authentic experiences,” especially within the health and wellness space. The wellness segment is projected to be worth $2.1 trillion by 2030, according to Carolyne Doyon, President & CEO, North American and Caribbean, Club Med.

  • Luxury and Lifestyle Growth: Prominently within the Caribbean and Latin America markets, the luxury and lifestyle sectors are leading in growth. Speaking of these sectors, Julienne Smith, Chief Development Officer, Americas, IHG, shared that “being able to have our customers gain those experiences that they’ve not had before allows us to grow in places like the Caribbean and countries in South America”. Smith sees a really bright horizon for the sectors. However, Ultra-Luxury deals are not prominent in the region.


Hotel Brand News

A few key moments of the conferences centered around the following brand news and insights:

  • Wyndham and Choice Rumors: Attendees spent a large portion of Tuesday speculating over the Wall Street Journal Report that Choice Hotels International was in discussion to buy Wyndham Hotels & Resorts which would create a titan in the U.S. hotel space. Jeff Weinstein, Editor in Chief, Hotel Investment Today, interviewed Geoff Ballotti, President & CEO, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts on the main stage Tuesday afternoon. After being asked the question Ballotti said he was unaware of the matter and declined to comment.

  • Iberostar Partnership with IHG: Elie Maalouf, CEO, Americas, IHG spoke of the new IHG and Iberostar Partnership as striking a balance between profitability and legacy. The alliance, announced in November, gives IHG a greater presence in the Caribbean and Americas regions.


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