Interview Juan Rodriguez Medina Operational Director of Sales and Marketing of the GHL Hotels Group present in 10 Latin American countries



Juan Rodriguez Medina - Operational Director of Sales and Marketing of the GHL Hotels Group

Juan Rodriguez Medina – Operational Director of Sales and Marketing of the GHL Hotels Group

Visit Latin America: How did you organize yourself during the crisis and how are you preparing for the recovery?

We have followed closely the World Tourism Organization guidelines from 3rd of April.

These can be summarized as follows:

– Crisis management and mitigation,

– Implementation of stimulus measures

– Acceleration of the recovery,

– Preparing for the future.

Chronologically, since March 2020, GHL HOTELS has been involved in the first two stages, acting as an opinion leader in the media, publishing articles related to tourism activity and the management of the pandemic, joining with the directors of other hotel chains to raise awareness among governments of the effects on employment and cash flow, a crucial issue in the sector, following the quarantine decreed in the 10 countries where we are present.

In late May and early June, we prepared for the reopening of tourism by implementing safety, health and protection measures for employees, customers, suppliers and visitors, in order to responsibly meet the needs of the community in this new reality.

As it has been a tradition for over 50 years, the GHL HOTELS team, which today numbers over 5,000 employees, is ready to continue working with enthusiasm and commitment to guarantee a memorable experience.

We have redesigned our processes in accordance with the new biosafety protocols established by the WHO and the guidelines of the hotel brands under which we operate.

Depending on the measures required by the different governments, from Guatemala to Argentina, with regard to travel restrictions, a phased opening is planned for the second half of the year, local and interdepartmental in the first instance, national in the second phase, followed by mobility between border countries and finally, international standardization, an opening that will be aligned with our market strategies.

VLA: Your hotel activities are spread over ten countries, what health measures are you going to implement and how are you going to harmonize them in all your establishments?

The current situation has led hotels to implement stricter measures to ensure the safety of their staff and guests. For example, GHL HOTELS became the first Latin American hotel chain to sign an agreement with Bureau Veritas to obtain the Safe Guard stamp, which recognises compliance with good practices and biosafety standards, for the prevention of Covid-19. This applies to the hotels we manage under brands such as Hyatt Centric, Sheraton, Radisson, Sonesta among others, and to hotels under our own brands: GHL Style, Relax and Collection.

We have a Safety, Occupational Health and Environmental Protection Management System (SISSTA), consisting of various training, promotion and prevention programmes and activities to ensure the implementation of biosafety protocols.

Among the measures implemented, we have processes that range from the preparation of our employees for their work while passengers are on board.

VLA: Hosting events is also one of the GHL group’s strong points.  Do you have any requests for the end of this year and next?

In order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19, restrictions and ban on events exceeding 50 people, have had a major impact on the MICE segment in all countries since March-April 2020.

As a result, companies have made the decision to cancel or postpone the events they had planned for the rest of this year.

As an alternative to this new reality, technology is becoming a much needed resource for creating “hybrid events”, which, thanks to a reliable platform, will make it possible to combine virtual and face-to-face activities simultaneously, according to the needs of our clients.

The technology will facilitate the interaction of a host or speaker, in different cities in a country or region where we have hotels and where there are other local assistants, thus guaranteeing complete coverage of the event’s target audience and at the same time respecting the rules of distance and health protection.

GHL HOTELS has developed a strategic alliance with companies specializing in high technologies and professional event organisers, in order to present a new proposal of “hybrid events” to the different sectors of activity, for those who need to launch a product, organize a congress, training courses or business conferences.  This is a new product that adapts to change and allows each sector of the economy to become more dynamic, given the prohibitions on bringing together more than 50 participants and the limitations of connectivity at airports throughout the region.

We have already carried out two “hybrid events”, in the form of pilot tests that have enabled us to maintain GHL’s spirit of hospitality, offering organizers and participants a combination of virtual and gastronomic experiences from different hotels, respecting technical requirements, biosecurity protocols and service guarantees.

VLA: What impact do you think this crisis will have on tourism in Latin America in the medium term? 

The first impact will be caused by the effects on the region of the entry into “Chapter 11” of the bankruptcy law of the two main airlines: Latam and Avianca. There is no doubt that connectivity will be greatly affected both by the volume of supply (number of seats available per line) and by prices, which are unknown. This means that all types of passengers will suffer transversally from this crisis in the air sector.  From backpackers to company staff, those who buy a tourist package or attend an event will have to adapt their entire travel cycle to the effects generated. Both in planning and booking, during the trip and on the return trip to the place of origin, the experience will necessarily be different.

The crisis must be measured in the medium term according to the composition of the issuing markets and the state of reactivation in which each country finds itself. We understand that the reactivation of tourism will take place in 4 phases in which the first dynamic markets will be the urban markets and will lead to the transatlantic travel markets including the United States, due to the travel restrictions issued by governments to their nationals.

Therefore, we are planning the management of the crisis in phases, phases that include 4 fundamental actions: the analysis of the issuing markets, the identification of new programming of frequencies and land and air routes, marketing strategies and finally, the development of actions to integrate them into a new plan for the second half of 2020.

In the midst of so much uncertainty, it is an art to seek the right mix of each component at the right time, but we seek to ensure that the reactivation of tourism goes hand in hand with the government policies of each country, considering that there will be asymmetrical differences between the behavior of demand and the local administrations of the destinations.

VLA: What message would you like to send to your customers?

Part of GHL’s vision is to be environmentally sustainable and to participate in the major challenges facing our communities. At the moment, we are going through all phases of the challenge posed by COVID-19, because not only does it threaten our physical health, but it is also a potential threat to the economy and social order of the sector worldwide.

Our message to all readers of Visit Latin America is that the number one priority over the last three months has been to quickly analyze the situation of the players in the tourism value chain and to reinvent a new way of doing business in hotels. This means changing many processes that we have been conducting differently for years. This is why it is a “reinvention”.

We will use technological, human or financial effort to obtain in our hotels the international Safe Guard stamp from Bureau Veritas, which recognises compliance with good practices, standards and the implementation of prevention protocols.

Finally, to tour operators, associated travel agencies and distribution channels in general, I would like to say that our new challenge will be to study and understand the new consumption patterns of travellers, so that we can quickly adapt to their expectations and to the demands generated by this crisis.




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