The first day of the 5th Edition of the Ibero-American Business Congress or CEAPI, which is taking place in Punta Cana, hosted a round table dedicated to analyzing the role of Ibero-America as a global tourism power, its situation after the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges it faces in the new international context.
Made up of prominent businessmen from the Ibero-American tourism industry and moderated by the president of the Spanish group Vocento, Ignacio Ybarra, the panel highlighted the importance that tourism and leisure have acquired in the post-pandemic global society, being already two of the aspects most valued by citizens. And the important role as a vector of growth that this industry has in the sustainable growth of the Ibero-American economies.
Thus, the speakers Amancio López Seijas, president of HOTUSA; Alberto Bacó, founding partner of RE Capital; Elena Foguet, business director of The Bicester Collection and Isidoro José Alanis Marcos, president of Grupo Global Exchange, agreed in identifying the challenges that the current Ibero-American tourism industry has to overcome in order to position itself as an engine of growth and social transformation.
With digitalization, innovation, social responsibility and environmental sustainability as the main ways to strengthen the Ibero-American role on the world tourism map, the panelists pointed out the need to develop the sector around efficient public policies and align them with the entrepreneurs who are leading the evolution and modernization of the sector in the region.
In this sense, Isidoro José Alanis pointed out that “after an unimaginable crisis, we have emerged stronger in just 24 months. We have transformed ourselves and our challenges are to recover confidence and the habit of tourism. Now we must be able to absorb demand, recover the workforce by training our workers and offering good working conditions. We must also diversify the destinations and open the range to new alternatives”.
For his part, Puerto Rico’s Alberto Bacó stressed that “Latin American collaboration is necessary to strengthen the region as a tourist alternative. Puerto Rico also has its own strengths: low taxation and the fact that Americans can travel without a passport in a country like the U.S. where few people have this type of document (only 27% do)”.
Elena Foguet pointed out that “the challenge and opportunity for tourism is to change the paradigm and relate to society in a different way: to bet on talent, creativity and social and environmental sustainability. Tourism must commit to society and lead the change of paradigm, taking advantage of the transversality of the sector that favors economic growth, social improvement and the environment.
We must apply transversality in everything we do and give back to society what it has given us. Digitalization and technology are key in the positioning of destinations, but the human touch and the personal relationship is very important in the world of tourism. Digitalization must serve to improve that human treatment and technology must give more time to people and professionals in the sector to treat people, tourists”.
For his part, Amancio López Seijas recalled that “tourism requires security -legal, health and citizen security- and adequate infrastructures. The challenge is to improve quality in order to improve the type of tourism we receive. The ‘cluster’ formed by small companies and family businesses must be strengthened and reinforced from a Latin American perspective.
Tourism, a sector in which we work 365 days a year, demands vacancies that are not filled due to the high level of demand and dedication it requires. For this reason, we need a company culture and training, and we need to know how to be at the service of the customer. We are more than an industry, we are the industry of happiness. We are more than a sector because we are transversal, key to the development of countries and societies. This can only be done with people and taking care of employability”, she said.
As a final message Elena Foguet asked governments “to value quality tourism and the media not to contribute to tourism-phobia”. And Alberto Bacó assured that we are in “one of the best moments of humanity because we have the possibility of reinventing ourselves”.
Innovation and creativity
In turn, Frank Rainieri, founder of the Puntacana hotel group, called for “innovation and creativity as the basis for the success” of a tourism project like Punta Cana. Integration between entrepreneurs from different countries is also key to promoting ventures and projects. Dreams are created this way: keeping our feet on the ground and with the pragmatism that characterizes us entrepreneurs.
The path to success is not to stop in the face of obstacles and challenges must be overcome. The business sector must now lead social and environmental change. We cannot leave it to politicians. Let us become the leaders – and not only as entrepreneurs – to make a better Latin America. We can no longer be the businessmen of the 19th and 20th centuries, but we must promote a fairer region while respecting free enterprise”.
In an interview conducted by Jairon Severino, director of the Dominican financial newspaper El Dinero, Frank Rainieri, founder of the Puntacana Group, described how he created this tourist destination that “was born thanks to the desire for adventure, entrepreneurship, intuition and the courage and daring of youth”.
Rainieri, who hosted the event in one of his hotels -the Punta Cana Resort & Club- also wanted to emphasize “that the key to Punta Cana’s success is that it has managed to create a destination that generates 15% of the Dominican GDP. And it is a model that can serve as an example for the rest of Latin America”.
In addition, throughout the interview he made reference to the fact that “destinations and markets are not created in one year. It takes years: you suffer a lot, you lose money at the beginning. Punta Cana is not the product of Frank Rainieri but also of Haydée Rainieri” who helped me throughout that period of sacrifices. I even managed to get an airport built, which is the ninth in the Latin American region”.