Latin America, Utell's Fastest Growing Market

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BY ERNEST BLUM

MIAMI -- About 380 hotel properties throughout Latin America have become Utell International's fastest-growing market worldwide, the hotel marketing and reservations firm reported. "Utell's Latin American inbound and outbound business continues to grow at unprecedented rates," said William R. Misunas, the company's executive vice president of marketing.

Utell, for example, has experienced a dramatic increase in reservations inbound to Latin America-up almost 34% for the first four months of 1997, he said. To better serve Latin properties as well as North American travel agents, he reported, Utell just relocated its Latin headquarters from Mexico City to Miami. From here, Utell will oversee its eight offices in Latin America.

The relocation is a major strategic move in the company's international expansion, Misunas added. The move here is in line with Holiday Inn Worldwide's recent relocation here along with the presence here of Latin American headquarters for Inter-Continental, ITT Sheraton and Renaissance, all of which are experiencing fast regional growth.

"The Miami location provides Utell excellent access to the growing number of travel industry headquarters in South Florida," Misunas explained. As another indication of Utell's regional growth, the company added 42 Latin hotel properties to its portfolio during the first four months of the year, an increase of 12%, reported Graham Richards, Utell's regional vice president, Latin America.

Richards projected that Utell will handle reservations for more than 375,000 room nights booked from North America in 1997. U.S. residents rank high among visitors to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela, Richards noted.

All told, he said, the company's eight Latin offices and 75-person sales team, will book in excess of one million room nights. The growth in the Latin America travel market is a two-way street, the executive said.

For example, outbound travel from Latin America grew by 37% last year, with the U.S. capturing much of that traffic, he said. With its eye on the fast-growing market, Utell opened a Latin headquarters in Mexico City three-and-a-half years ago, Richards noted. But he said Utell relocated here after a decision that it could be more effective here as a "bridge" between both halves of the Hemisphere. The Mexico City office will continue as Utell's office for Mexico and Central America, he noted.

"Our job here," Richards explained, "is to work with North American travel agents on behalf of our Latin American partners." The headquarters, for example, helps market Latin properties in terms of the specialized travel interests of many U.S. agencies, he said, in addition to more general promotions and agent familiarization trips.

The office also coordinates programs with Utell's sister marketing companies, including Summit International Hotels, Insignia Resorts and Golden Tulip, he said. Utell's new Latin American headquarters office is located near Miami Airport, at 6100 Blue Lagoon Drive, Miami, FL 33126. The telephone number is (305) 262-9992; fax (305) 262-7747.

However, agents making customary reservations to Utell-represented properties in the region should continue to call 1-800-44-UTELL general reservations number or access "UI" on the GDS. Utell, which will handle over four million reservations generating $1.6 billion in 1997, is part of the Reed Travel Group, the parent company of Travel Weekly.

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