Gabriel Martinez, senior manager of international sales & marketing since 2012, oversees more than 50 receptive accounts based mostly on the East Coast, helping them showcase the SeaWorld Parks all over the world. Before joining SEA, Gabriel worked for Disney Destinations as sales manager for Mexico and Latin emerging markets. SEA is a Sustaining Member of IITA, where the company occupies a seat on the Board of Directors.
What is your analysis of the Latin American markets?
The movement of currencies and economies is sudden but not unprecedented. Take Brazil as an example. Some may see the numbers from Brazil from a few years ago and not understand what’s going on. Brazil is going through a profound structural crisis, but it’s not unusual. There has been a rise of the dollar but also political and social unrest. A lot of folks have come out of the lower class into the middle class and wonder if they will stay there.
This won’t last forever. It’s a temporary crisis. I don’t have a crystal ball to tell when it will be over, but Brazil has 200 million people who can get to many of our markets in one flight. If even 10 percent of them can travel, that’s a lot of people.
We have a team in Brazil and remain optimistic. My advice to my industry colleagues is to take a long view. Develop and keep relationships now so when the economy picks back up, you aren’t scrambling to find connections.
There are still a lot of people willing to travel. In a lot of Latin countries, if things are going great, people say “Let’s travel.” And if things aren’t going great, they still say “Let’s travel.”
If companies have invested in the last five years, they may have to pare down their investment but don’t disappear. Stay present as much as possible.
Has the strong U.S. dollar affected travel from Brazil and the rest of Latin America?
Yes, it impacts everywhere and is an adjustment period. Eventually, Latin American travelers will review their budgets, see this as the new price and will reshape their budgets.
In Latin America, people are used to the dollar being expensive and the fact that travel is an investment. Also, Ecuador and Panama accepted the dollar as their currency years ago, so it insulates them some from fluctuations.
Are there any countries on the radar for future growth?
Argentina is doing really well. I’m very optimistic. There is a little devaluation of the currency, but it has become the new normal, and the currency has stabilized. They can get to New York City, Miami and Orlando fairly easily and are willing to travel on longer, multi-city trips. They would be willing to listen to new itineraries – maybe West Coast destinations and skiing.
India and China are places for double-digit growth. But we also focus on mature markets such as the UK. Single-digit growth in such bulk numbers also is important. Keeping balanced in multiple markets is a good strategy.