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South America’s pipeline for new hotels appears to have reached its peak in this year’s first quarter, decreasing to 341 projects with 56,316 rooms at midyear, according to a new report by Portsmouth, NH-based Lodging Econometrics. A 59% majority of the continent’s hotels are being developed in Brazil, with 203 projects totaling 36,786 rooms.

Patrick Ford, president of the firm, says Brazil is currently a focal point for all major hotel brands, with new mid-market inland projects under way, as well as along popular beachfronts. “It is the target in Latin America,” Ford tells GlobeSt.com. “It has a pretty broad-based economy and has a lot of everything: agriculture, manufacturing, mining and oil. In many ways, it’s a miniature US.”

Argentina is a distant second to Brazil in the South American pipeline, with just 50 hotels, followed by Colombia, Peru, Chile and Venezuela, according to Ford. He adds that 57% of the continent’s project pipeline is currently labeled independent, with 70% of them likely to make a branding decision before opening.

Ford counts 35 new hotels totaling just more than 5,000 rooms opening throughout South America in the first half of 2008. Because of the impact of the global credit crisis, it is adjusting its full-year forecast for new openings down slightly to 83 hotels totaling 11,300 rooms, with another 96 hotels with at least 14,000 rooms unlocking in 2009.

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