Rajiv Trivedi and Wayne Goldberg of La Quinta Inns & Suites sign the the brand's first franchise agreement in Colombia with Grupo TAO's Marta and Luis Fernando Toro.
At its annual conference in New Orleans, La., this week, La Quinta Inns & Suites introduced its first franchisee in Colombia. The expansion is the fourth country outside of the United States for the Dallas, Texas-based hotel chain.
The announcement was made during a press conference at the New Orleans Convention Center with Rajiv Trivedi, La Quinta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer introducing Luis Fernando and Marta Toro of Grupo TAO, based in Medellin. The soon-to-be built mixed-use building in Medellin—which is known as the banking center of Colombia—is expected to break ground in the coming months. Two additional locations in the country are expected in the near future.
“We have been in discussions for almost a year,” Trivedi said. Last February, at La Quinta’s annual conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Trivedi revealed to Lodging that the company was entering talks to enter the country. “Luis Fernando has big plans for La Quinta in the country.”
With properties in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and development in Panama, La Quinta President and CEO Wayne Goldberg said that the expansion required the right partner to fit into the culture of the brand. He also said it required a partner who can deliver.
“I had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with Luis Fernando and Marta in Colombia, and I know we’re going to have a great relationship. They fit into our culture,” Goldberg said. Later he told Lodging, “Our successes depend on our partners. I’m absolutely convinced we have the right partners for this project.”
At the press conference, Luis Fernando Toro said, through a translator, “We are very happy to work with La Quinta in Colombia. Colombia is a well-kept secret. We have the opportunity to show how beautiful Medellin is.”
In a press release released in conjunction with the press conference, Toro said, “It is an exciting and promising time to be building in Colombia. We look forward to introducing La Quinta to travelers in Colombia, and delivering the outstanding product, service, and guest experience that is the hallmark of the brand throughout the Americas.”
Toro said he expects the Medellin property to be open within 18 months. Trivedi added that Grupo TAO has the infrastructure in place to possibly shorten that timeline.
In fact, Toro and Grupo TAO are no strangers to bringing U.S. brands into Colombia, a country just beginning to accept branding as a concept. Grupo TAO is a longtime, noted boutique hotel operator, but it is also the company that brought Holiday Inn Express into Colombia. “Our Holiday Inn Express hotels have been successful and we think there is a segment in Colombia that is receptive to select-service hotels,” Toro said. He added that he wanted to partner with La Quinta because it is a brand that is growing swiftly and brings a fresh approach. “We would like to go into the country with a fresh brand,” he said.
The Medellin property and the La Quinta brand in Colombia will target business travelers in the country. Unlike La Quinta properties in the U.S., the most likely scenario for the brand in Colombia is mixed-use high rises with the hotel as an anchor to retail shops and other attractions. The model also provides the hotel developer with an added income.
Trivedi also pointed out that it takes much less to be profitable in Colombia in terms of revenue and occupancy. Grupo TAO is investing close to $10 million in the first hotel in Medellin, Toro said.
While many hotel companies are heading east to Asia for growth, La Quinta is focused on the south, as in Latin America. “We could go to Asia, be we chose to go where we feel we can strategically succeed,” Goldberg said. “We chose to start where we believe we can actually execute what we say we are going to do.”
Goldberg said that at of the time of this announcement, La Quinta has already laid the groundwork for future development in Columbia with hotels in other cities such as Bogota on the horizon. “This was not a ready, aim, fire situation. In the background we’ve been preparing to have the infrastructure in place to grow in Colombia.”
Trivedi said that he believes other South American countries such as Argentina, Peru, and Brazil are active development targets for the company. He also allowed that the company is indeed strongly evaluating India.