Inter-Continental Sao Paulo eyes bright future

Travel Weekly senior editor Mark Chesnut paid a visit to the Hotel Inter-Continental Sao Paulo in Brazil. His report follows:

ike so many other hotels around the world, the Inter-Continental Sao Paulo experienced a downturn in business.

Liane Galina, the hotel's director of sales, said that last year was marked by shortened stays as well as a major decrease in weekend occupancy. She added there also were a number of cancellations immediately following the terrorist attacks in the U.S.

But Galina said she sees a brighter future for the 193-room property, which relies on the U.S. for about 40% of its business.

The city's role as a business center, coupled with its potential as a tourist destination, should help to ensure a growth in arrivals, she noted.

Galina recently moved to Sao Paulo after working at the hotel's sister property in Rio de Janeiro.

The lobby of the Hotel Inter-Continental Sao Paulo.The hotel market has changed dramatically in Sao Paulo in the last decade, according to Galina, who first worked in Sao Paulo in the mid-1990s. Today, she said, hotels in the city must work harder for business.

"Things are getting more competitive. When I first came to Sao Paulo, it was paradise [for hoteliers]," Galina said, noting that in the mid-1990s, companies were expanding rapidly in the city, and business travel was booming.

As the hotel industry lagged behind in meeting the demand, "we had a great occupancy rate -- 94% or 95%," she recalled. Now, the hotel industry has caught up with the demand.

Additional growth in Sao Paulo is in the works for Six Continents, parent company of the Inter-Continental brand; the company will open a 700-room Holiday Inn, the largest hotel in Sao Paulo, next to the city's convention center in 2003.

It's no surprise that Sao Paulo's importance as a business hub has increased. Not only is it the largest city in South America, it is one of the world's largest metropolises and home to industries including automotive manufacturing, banking, telecommunications, software and e-commerce.

A spotlessly clean, upscale facility, the Inter-Continental is well-positioned to compete with the other major players in the city's hospitality market.

The hotel, which opened in 1996, has an enviable location, one block from Paulista Avenue, the city's leading financial area. The property also is 19 miles from Guarulhos Airport and four miles from Congonhas, the domestic airport.

The 18-story hotel's guest rooms are equipped with cable television, telephones, voice mail, a safe-deposit box, a minibar and a work desk. Bathrooms offer health and beauty amenities as well as touches such as a makeup mirror. All rooms except the standard category feature a bathtub with a Jacuzzi and a separate shower.

Floors 17 to 20 are Six Continents Club floors, where rooms have additional amenities, such as an in-room fax/printer/copier. Club floor guests also have access to a lounge for breakfast and refreshments.

The hotel's outdoor swimming pool, which features a bar, is on the rooftop of one of the floors. There are a sizable gym, a business center and convention facilities, with 10 meetings and banquet rooms.

The property's restaurant, Tarsila, is an upscale, gourmet establishment with international cuisine that often features themed nights with live entertainment.

The hotel also is in a good location for leisure travelers, as it is within walking distance to restaurants in the Paulista Avenue area, which are close to the city's metro system.

The Inter-Continental is a quick walk to the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo, the city's best-known art museum, which is housed in a modern structure on Paulista Avenue.

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