Average occupancy rate fell 4.5 points from 2011 to 2012. The number of hotels grew 14.1 per cent.
Without a convention center for more than 1500 people, and with a number of rooms that grew twice as much as demand, the occupancy level in Bogotá fell from 62.96 to 58.38 per cent, from 2011 to 2012.
“There was a lack of balance between supply and demand,” confirmed Juan Leonardo Correa, president of the Columbian Tourism and Hotel Association (Cotelco), in reference to the statistics according to which the number of visitors rose by 6.53 per cent, while the number of hotel rooms grew by 14,1 per cent.
Although there is an abundance of hotel beds, “because of its lack of a good convention center, the city missed the possibility of hosting events such as the Latin American Congress on Microbiology, the Latin American Forum on Air Transportation, and the International Mathematics Olympiad,” explained Alexandra Torres, executive manager of the Bogotá Conventions Bureau.
Torres added that this deficiency will be reduced in part in 2015, with the inauguration of the Ágora convention center, a five story building, connected to Corferias, which, in an area of 6500 square meters, will have a capacity for 4000 people. In this way – she assured – it will be possible to attract events such as the World Congress of Gynaecology, which could have 8000 attendees in 2016.
Another problem the capital has that prevents its hotels from filling up is the concentration in areas such as Corferias, the airport, and the 93 Park. “Much of the boom is leveraged in the builders’ interest in making money, but without knowledge of the hotel industry,” affirmed Erick Trujillo, Manager of the Lancaster House Hotel, in the north, who warned a crisis may arise if building continues.
“Our occupancy rate rose from 72 per cent in 2011 to 74 per cent last year”, added Trujillo, who expects Lancaster House to continue to grow in 2013. The goal is to reach 76 per cent.
On the other hand, Ana Ofelia González, manager of the Hotel Estelar de la Feria, admitted to a decrease in occupancy. “We went from 68 per cent in 2011 to 66 per cent last year”, she informed. In her opinion, the decrease was the result of an excess in supply in the area, following the arrival of large hotel chains such as Wyndham and Tryp. González affirmed that many new and small hotels offer very low rates, which has forced Estelar de la Feria to lower its rates by 10 per cent (they are close to 200,000 pesos). “The increase in supply makes it necessary to split up the pie”, she said and added that in the industry 900 rooms will be built by 2015. An issue which has not gone unnoticed among the causes of the decrease is the exchange rate. When a dollar was worth 2800 pesos, we were more attractive, but now, at 1800, not as much”, assured María Patricia Guzmán, executive manager of Cotelco (Bogotá-Cundinamarca chapter).
Being part of a chain helps. The international brand-name hotels that have established themselves in the country have certain advantages which keep their occupancy high. “We have the advantage of providing not only rooms, but conference rooms as well, which generate utility; we also have the support of a recognized name and a reservations system which sends us guests”, says Luis Perillo, manager of the Bogotá Hilton. This hotel, in the financial centre of the city, will not divulge its occupancy rates, but Perillo affirms that the utility grew by over 25 per cent, above the goal they had set. “Americans prefer brand-name hotels; they go where they know”, says Ana Romero, manager of the Hotel Estelar la Fontana. She adds that in the 24 hotels of the Estelar chain in Peru, Columbia, and Panama, the city of Bogota is promoted.
According to Luis Fernando Rosas, director of the District Institute of Tourism (IDT), promotion beyond the borders is necessary, such as the one organized this year at Fitur in Madrid and at the IBT in Berlin (Germany). “Bogota already made an alliance to promote itself with Quindio and Cartagena, and soon will do the same with Medellin”, he confirmed.