“The business model in the Caribbean hotel sector is increasingly diverse. Before, they were large family hotel companies with tradition and experience in tourism with hotels 100% owned and operated by themselves. Now we are seeing the emergence of non-hotel investors who are entering into management and operating agreements with tour operators or major international brands. In addition, we are seeing a large number of Dominican investors introducing their capital in this sector,” said Juan Manuel Martín de Oliva, vice-president of the tourism area of Banco Popular Dominicano, in an interview with arecoa.com.
Martín de Oliva, who will receive the arecoa.com award at Fitur 2024 for his career in the Dominican tourism sector and his great contributions from the position he holds at BPD, the leading private bank in the financing of tourism projects, revealed to this digital newspaper fundamental aspects about the development of the DR tourism industry and the promising future of this sector.
What do you feel most satisfied with in your career, and who would you highlight as your main references during this time?
My main satisfaction is that together with the rest of the team we have been able to position Banco Popular as the undisputed leader in service to the tourism sector. Being called and recognized as “the tourism bank” is not only a source of pride, but also a responsibility that moves us to try to improve every day. Having received recognition from various institutions in the sector such as Asonahores, various Tourism Clusters, the Ministry of Tourism and the UNWTO, among others, are reviews that motivate us even more to support this important and transcendent sector for the country’s economy.
The main references are undoubtedly my colleagues at Banco Popular from whom I learn every day, the top executives of the bank who, with their example, support the initiatives that we propose as a tourism team, and of course, as a north, I have the thousands of families who live from this sector and who show their pride in every visit I make to the different companies in the sector.
What have been the greatest difficulties you have had to overcome in order to create a tourism banking division of your current weight?
More than difficulties, I would speak of challenges, because at Banco Popular we have always been innovating. Since we created the first vice-presidency of the tourism sector in a bank, maintaining our position as leaders in financing and service to the sector, and many other initiatives that we have pioneered, we have had to face the necessary challenges in order to grow. Fortunately, our clients have been very generous with us and have given us support for all these initiatives, which in the end is the most important thing, as they are our reason for being.
Where do you see the greatest potential among Dominican destinations to stand out as the fastest-growing in new hotels?
“DR has it all” is a reality, so fortunately we have a lot of room for exploration in large areas, and not only on the beach, we have room for health, mountain and adventure tourism, among others. But we are certainly seeing areas that are growing, such as Miches, Bergantín, Pedernales, etc… However, when it comes to expansion, I see it not only as an increase in beds, but also as an increase in quality, and so we have areas like Bávaro, Punta Cana, Uvero Alto that have a large number of hotels in a continuous effort by investors to adapt to the ever-increasing quality demanded by tourists.
And where do you appreciate it among the rest of the main destinations in the Caribbean, and why?
I really don’t like comparisons, because each destination has its strengths. But it is indisputable that in the DR we have been able to create an optimal environment, since tourists are looking for stability and security. In our country they find social, political, economic and exchange stability, and tourists feel safe. This fact makes the demand grow, which in turn encourages investors to make sustainable and long-term investments that in turn help with this stability. All this generates a virtuous circle that helps our growth to be constant and exponential.
What are the main variables that you value most when it comes to financing a tourism project with greater or lesser emphasis?
Here I come back to the subject of the team; at Banco Popular we support each other to achieve the success of our clients’ hopes and dreams. We have a Credit Analysis area that perfectly understands the tourism sector and we do not limit ourselves only to approving or declining, we are proud to advise our clients also through our Investment Banking Area. I always remember that we are not a transaction bank, but a relationship bank.
When we evaluate a project it is very important that the client’s experience is very important, that they have a clear business plan so that we can adapt to each one. Each transaction is different from the previous one and will be different from the next one. And of course we support those who believe in their project by assuming their share of the risk.
To what do you attribute the fact that the main investors in the region have been Spanish despite the challenge of an ocean in between?
The Spanish people have always been emigrants and hard workers with a vision to explore new worlds and that is in their blood. And within the Spanish people, if we review the past, practically all of them were Mallorcans, and they already came with a great experience of what tourism is. In Banco Popular we have been supporting tourism for more than three decades and specifically 25 years ago we already foresaw the importance of this sector in the economy of the country. As a result of this vision, 25 years ago we signed an agreement with a Spanish bank with deep roots in Mallorca to bring the best practices of how to attend to these Spanish investors and show them that we were capable of providing a service and attention according to their needs. As a result of this agreement, I came to join this great family, Popular.
What do you think are the keys to a hotel product that will be more successful than others in the future?
Undoubtedly, one that shows sensitivity to sustainability and takes care of the environment, involving the nearby communities in the hotel’s business success. Today’s young client is increasingly looking for integration in the destination with experiences that bring them closer to the communities to take away a memory of experiences that will last in their memories.
Fortunately, in the DR we have a large number of hoteliers who have had this philosophy for a long time and are very busy developing and preserving this model.
What changes in the financial situation do you think will make it even easier to increase investment with lower-interest loans?
The monetary authorities in our country are giving unquestionable support to investment, which allows us financial institutions to serve our clients under the best conditions. The Government, through tax incentives, is also supporting this growth. So I understand that by continuing on this path, we can transmit to the client not only an adequate interest rate but also conditions and structures very much in line with what their business plan demands. An example of this is the very important growth of financing to the tourism sector by Dominican banks, where Banco Popular continues to be a pioneer with financing close to 39% of the total portfolio destined to this sector in the country.
In what virtues would you concentrate the contribution of tourism banking divisions as key to promote tourism projects?
I understand that in the knowledge of the sector. Having an area like ours, where we are not only dedicated to providing loans or managing clients’ resources, but we also participate as members of the Hotel Association, the Clusters and other associations linked to tourism, gives us an experience and knowledge that allows us to give much more value to our relationship with investors.
Do you consider that Spanish banks have given as much share and priority to hotel financing as entities such as yours do?
I have the impression that yes, Spanish banks know the tourism sector very well and in fact at Banco Popular we have had very good relations with Spanish entities with great success. Large hotel companies require a large amount of capital to be able to develop their investments and being able to count on banks like ours allows them to use the resources of their Spanish banks to build hotels in those countries where financing could be more complicated than in the DR, and that is where we come in to complement their needs.
What would be the ideas that in your opinion would have the greatest impact on improving the complementary offer of the destinations?
The infrastructures in the different destinations are key to the development of the complementary offer. We have experienced this in the East with the Coral Highway and it is being experienced in Puerto Plata with the cruise ports.
The contribution of Banco Popular and the rest of the banks in the system to small and medium entrepreneurs is also key to the growth of this complementary offer. Therefore, I encourage the continuation of this policy of growth of large infrastructures that generates an adequate and orderly environment for this development.
What is the outlook for the succession of the main family vacation chains?
Promising and excellent without a doubt. The 100% of the examples we are seeing in all the chains augur well. In addition, as they are large but family chains, we see how the new generations have been involved in the business from a very young age, as they have lived it in their homes. If there is a common denominator among hoteliers, it is passion, and they have taken that characteristic home with them and passed it on from generation to generation.
We are seeing generational replacements that do not need a period of maturation to get to know the business, but are being a continuity of it, and in most cases with the support and support of those first generations of fighting, persevering, passionate and visionary men and women who have generated a breed of hoteliers who are undoubtedly proud of their descendants.
How would you quantify the value of the specialized press in defending the sector and enhancing its voice?
I like to end with this question because it allows me to leave in the reader’s memory the importance and relevance of the press in the success of tourism in our country. The tourism press has been, is and will continue to be a necessary and indispensable traveling companion, because it makes known the successes and reminds us of what is not so good, allowing us to correct along the way. But it is undoubtedly a protagonist and indisputable ally of the growth of tourism and can feel very proud that with its invaluable help the DR is today at the top of tourism worldwide.