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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

MIAMI- The Hispanic Hotel Owners Association is set to hold its first Hotel Investment Development Managment Conference Oct. 8-10 at the Doral Resort and Spa. Washington, DC-based HHOA is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to increase the number of Hispanic-owned, -developed and -operated hotels, further the participation of Hispanic-owned suppliers serving the hotel industry and increase executive level employment opportunities for Hispanics within the lodging industry,” according to a press release.

The international conference next week will focus on current trends and forecasts for the hotel industry, and will feature expert panels on Latino ownership, deveopment and management in North, South and Central America. Keynote speakers include Michael Gallegos, president and CEO of American Property Management Corp.; Peter Yesawich, CEO of Ypartnership; Olivier Poirot, president of Accor North America; Peter Strebble, president of Wyndham Hotels Group; Pablo Azcarraga, COO of Grupo Posadas; and conference chairman Carlos Rodriguez, executive VP of real estate, developments and acquisitions for Driftwood Hospitality and president of DVI Cardel/Rodblu Funds.

“The most important point we want to convey at the conference is that there are deals getting done within the lodging industry, and there are specific investment strategies that people have undertaken to get those deals done,” HHOA’s president, Angela Gonzalez-Rowe, tells GlobeSt.com. “We want invetstors not to be so leary of the financial market, and look at different strategies to complete deals in this eceonomic climate.”

According to Gonzalez-Rowe, a little under 1% of the 49,000 hotels in the US are Latino-owned, yet that number is growing. From June 2007 to June 2008, the organization’s members generated 48 new projects ranging from economy to luxury hotels, she says. The non-profit touts more than 300 members and corporate sponsors including Hilton Hotels Corp., Marriott International, Wyndham Worldwide Corp., La Quinta, Hyatt, Accor North America, Choice Hotels International, Carlson Hotels Worldwide and InterContinental Hotel Group.

Despite news that demand for US hotel rooms is expected to bottom out in 2009, as reported by GlobeSt.com this week, Gonzalez-Rowe says this is an important time for hotel owners. “They should look to tighten up on managmenet of properties, and for acquisition and new development opportunities,” she says. “There is a decresase in value for real estate and the numbers are better for buyers looking to acquire existing hotel properties. In terms of opportunities for new developments, you’re generally looking at 24 months to open doors, and by that time we should be out of this economic slump.”

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