|The indoor/outdoor pool at the Tambo del Inka Luxury Collection Hotel.
REPORT FROM PERU—As Peru prepares to celebrate the centennial of Hiram Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu, the country’s signature tourist attraction and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, hotel development has begun to diversify drastically to accommodate the increasing number of travelers coming to the country for work and play. In traditional areas of business and tourism, such as Lima or Cusco, international chains are investing heavily, though less conventional areas of the country are seeing signs of growth as well.
“Peru is a very attractive country for its many tourism segments; it is an ideal destination for cultural history buffs and nature enthusiasts as well as outdoor adventurers and, more recently, exceptional shopping and dining in Lima,” said Libertador Hotels, Resorts & Spas CEO Jorge Melero. “For many years, travelers from the luxury segment couldn’t find hotels and other facilities able to fulfill their expectations, hence Peru being such a big draw for international luxury brands looking for new markets—they have found seemingly endless opportunities in Peru.”
Libertador, Starwood expand presence
Peruvian chain Libertador Hotels, Resorts & Spas joined the Starwood Hotel group in 2007 and is months away from opening the first Westin hotel in South America in Lima’s San Isidro district. The 301-room hotel and convention center will be the tallest building in Peru and will be anchored by a fine-dining restaurant from Rafael Piqueras, one of Peru’s top chefs. This comes on the heels of the first W hotel in South America in Santiago, Chile, and two hyped Luxury Collection hotel openings in Peru during the last 14 months: the Hotel Paracas on the southern coast and Tambo del Inka in the Andes outside of Cusco.
“(The Westin) won´t be attractive solely to business travelers, but also for those organizing conventions and different events, which will generate a flow into Lima,” said Angela Maric, promotions coordinator for PromPeru.
“In 2007, the Brescia Group (who own Libertador Hotels, Resorts & Spas) decided to go to the next level in hospitality to serve the upper scale and luxury segments, which have seen a major surge over the last five years and continue to do so,” Melero said. “To launch this next chapter, Libertador sought a strong hospitality partner with a global presence and found Starwood to be the ideal brand to do so. It of course would prove to be a mutually beneficial relationship, as Starwood found in Peruvian Libertador a solid economic group with necessary experience in hospitality to guarantee the successful development and Peruvian launch of two of their most important brands, Westin and The Luxury Collection.
“Most Libertador hotels have been constructed over historic colonial houses—even an Incan palace in Cusco,” Melero said. “So each and every building has a very special character, and the brand, a favorite among Limeño society, pays great homage to its Peruvian roots. Our next step, after opening the Westin, will be to consolidate our position as the best Peruvian hotel brand with major refurbishments of our Cusco (Palacio del Inka) and Lake Titicaca properties. However, in four or five years it is also possible that we will begin to look to other markets outside of Peru.”
Cusco, Sacred Valley trends
Peru’s biggest lure is still the Cusco region, which includes the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu. The area is littered with archeological sites, cultural attractions and breathtaking natural scenery. Nearly all first-time tourists to Peru make a stop or concentrate their entire vacations here. With Taca and Star Peru airlines expanding flights and the new addition of Peruvian Airlines, the market is becoming increasingly less expensive to reach.
With the exception of a few 5-star hotels, the region has traditionally been a budget destination. However, that notion is changing rapidly with dozens of luxury hotels opening in the past three years and many more on the way.
“The Cusco area is still growing,” said Rosi Bianchi, GM of the Peruvian Hotel and Restaurant Association, Ahora Peru. “In the Sacred Valley, hotels are being built very luxurious. If you think of investing in this area, you have to be fancy.”
| The Mancora Marina Hotel
“In recent years, the interest of the luxury travelers in the Sacred Valley has grown due to the attractions that the area offers, including the Salineras of Maras and the Inca towns of Ollantaytambo or Moray,” said Catherine Lanseros, director of corporate communications for Orient-Express Peru. “In addition, the journey by train from the Sacred Valley up to Machu Picchu is shorter (approximately two hours less). Also worth noting, the altitude level of the Sacred Valley is lower than that of Cusco (the city of Cusco is located at 3,300 meters, or 10,826 feet, above sea level, and the Sacred Valley is 2,700 meters, or 8,858 feet), which may not seem like much, but the lower altitude of the Sacred Valley allows travelers to acclimate themselves to the altitude before heading to Cusco or up to Machu Picchu.”
Orient-Express recently acquired the 21-suite Rio Sagrado Hotel, Villas, and Spa near Urubamba and is in the process of restoring the Beaterio Nazarenas, a 32-room convent adjoining the Hotel Monasterio in Cusco. The annex will add a swimming pool, poolside restaurant and full-service spa and is expected to open in early 2012 and be the luxury chain’s sixth property in the country.
Chilean chain Explora and Marriott Hotels and Resorts are in the process of completing hotels in the area and Four Seasons and Aman Resorts also have expressed interest.
“It seems that the center of Cusco city and the Sacred Valley are very close to capacity with regards to adding new properties,” said Lanseros. “But I believe hotel development will continue to grow as the tourism infrastructure continues to grow.”
While hotel construction in traditional tourist destinations such as the Sacred Valley and Cusco is nearing the limit, lesser-developed areas of the country, particularly on the coast, are seeing interest from a variety of sources. During 2009, three large resorts—Libertador Luxury Collection, Doubletree, and La Hacienda Bahia Paracas—opened on the desert coast in Paracas, south of Lima. Casa Andina also opened Classic hotels in Chincha and less recently in Nazca and is restoring the iconic Hacienda San Jose, also in Chincha, to add to their Private Collection. The north coast, a favorite region for archeological and sport enthusiasts, is following suit.
“The Peruvian government is giving much support to the northern coast of Peru,” Ahora Peru’s Bianchi said. “Piura is increasing in corporate meetings and Tumbes and Piura is growing because of its beaches, since this part of the country is warm all year round. Strong hotel groups in the country are also betting on the north: Casa Andina operating the Gran Hotel Chiclayo and Los Portales buying a hotel in Chiclayo, as it already has a hotel in Piura.”
Beach and surf resorts in and around Mancora, an area not far from the border with Ecuador, have seen significant growth in the past three years. Most of the properties have less than a dozen rooms and cost less than 224 PEN (US$80) per night. Mancora’s Hotel DCO and Mancora Marina Hotel are the area’s first true luxury properties, though many others are expected in the coming years as flights expand to the region’s three airports (Piura, Tumbes and Talara) and the general tourism infrastructure is expanded.
Luxury eco-chain Inkaterra has announced plans to build an oceanfront hotel with about 2.41 kilometers (1.5 miles) of beachfront at Cabo Blanco, to open in 2012. Cabo Blanco was once a hangout of Ernest Hemingway, who came to fish for one of the world’s top sport fish, the Black Marlin, which is commonly caught here.
“We’re helping create a conservation area for Marlin and tuna. First the biologist come and help restore the flora and then eventually the fauna comes back,” said Joseph Koechlin, founder and CEO of Inkaterra.
The chain’s Cabo Blanco hotel will be an exclusive resort for sport fishermen, but also will include a field research station. “It’s a joint effort of conservation,” Koechlin said. “That’s the essence of Inkaterra.” The brand is also planning hotels under its recently launched, less expensive “by Inkaterra” brand in the Sacred Valley and Puerto Maldonado.
“The north coast has many attractions to offer: the Ruta Moche, different archaeological sites and beaches, among others. However, there is a need for hotel investments in the area, especially along the Ruta Moche (La Libertad and Lambayeque),” said PromPeru’s Maric. “The north has potential and it needs investment in 4- and 5-star hotel infrastructure.”