- TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice Award 2013 Best Hotel in Colombia
The website Trip Advisor recently gave out its 2013 Traveler’s Choice Awards for Best Hotel in Colombia based on its 75 million traveler reviews. Lancaster House was the winner in the categories of Customer Service and Popularity, and was rated number 16 in all of South America.
- Tunisian chef which will offer authentic Arabic food.
March 12 – EL TIEMPO
Rhiad Chiss is one of the most well-known young chefs from North Africa and he has arrived in Columbia.
At barely 30, Chiss has worked at the best hotels in Tunisia, France United Arab Emirates, and Australia. “I have dedicated my life to cooking since I was 17. The good thing about this job is it has no age restrictions.”
When he was 11, he would observe his mother and grandmother in the kitchen. According to him, he has a photographic memory, and would replicate the recipes as he had seen them prepared.
For this Tunisian chef, Arabic food is quite diverse, and he says Lebanese and Saudi Arabian is the most common in our country, but reminds us there are over 27 Arab countries and each has its own flavor.
“Tunisia and Morocco are neighbors, but the food is different. Moroccan food mixes sweet and savory, while Tunisian food is spicier and uses more herbs” says Rhiad.
When he finished high school, he went to hotel school. He immediately began working at hotels in Tunisia and then went to restaurants and luxury hotels in Marseille (France). Tunisian food is greatly influenced by French cooking due to its geographic proximity.
He later returned to Tunisia and ended up in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) at one of the London Tulip hotels which are part of the well-known Dutch hotel chain which has over 200 hotels in more than 40 countries. Finally, he travelled to Australia where he worked at the Tunisian embassy in Canberra.
Because of his travels and relationships. Rhiad not only knows Arabic food, which is his specialty, but he also excels at Indian, Japanese, Korean, and French cuisine.
Although Chiss has travelled all over the world it is odd that he ended up in Columbia after having such an excellent job in Australia. However, the reason that keeps him in the country is neither travel, nor cooking, but love. Online, Rhiad met a Columbian dentist, and they later met in person in Canberra (Australia) when she attended an international Dentistry Convention and they immediately decided to get married. They moved to Bucaramanga and have been living in Bogota since the beginning of the year.
Since he is used to working at luxury hotels, Rhiad has taken advantage of his stay in Bogota to join the Lancaster House, which was recently awarded the Traveler’s Choice Award for 2013 in the Customer Service and Popularity categories and was ranked number 16 in all of South America. This honor is given by Trip Advisor, the most popular travel website in the world and the online website with the best reputation in the tourism industry according to Proexport.
His favorite dish: Tunisian couscous (semolina grain which is steamed, then mixed with a sauce made of chickpeas and other vegetables and a very fermented homemade natural yogurt).
Ingredient that can always be found in his cooking: garlic.
Favorite Columbian dish (one sweet and another savory): Ajiaco and Manjarblanco.
A recipe: Sousse-style salmon (a typical dish from the coastal Mediterranean city of Sousse in Tunisia).
-Red, yellow, and Green peppers.
Sauté the salmon fillet in olive oil, together with a pinch of salt, cumin, and black pepper. Then add the peppers, mushrooms, and onion. After about 2 minutes of cooking add the wine and quickly flambé. Add the fish stock and allow to reduce for about 3 minutes. At the end add more cumin and serve over a bed of rice.
- The struggle to fill hotels in the capital city.
March 8, 2013 – EL TIEMPO
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.
EL TIEMPO WRITER
- Arab Festival
March 1 – April 30
At the restaurant Bistro 106, from March 1 to April 30, you will be able to enjoy the Arabic specialties of Chef Riadh Ghiss.
Each dish has a price of $ 25,000 COP
Service: from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
- Fish : Samka Harra , Fattoush salad, Arabic rice, French potato
- Chicken :mixed Arab dish : shish Taouk brochettes , falafel , Fattoush salad, Arabic rice, French potato
- Meat : Ain Sbanyouriya : ground beef stuffed with egg
- TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice Award 2013 Best Hotel in Colombia