Who’s Who Legal interviews Luciana Amendola Imbriani Kreidel, legal coordinator at Accor Latin America, a rapidly expanding group that recently acquired Grupo Posadas and Mirvec’s hotel groups, adding to their ownership of Sofitel, Novatel and Mercure, to bring their South American portofilo to over 200 hotels. She discusses the legal marketplace and growth in the hospitality industry in the Brazilian economy.
Luciana Amendola Imbriani Kreidel
Position: Legal coordinator
Company: Accor Latin America
Number of employees: Approximately 7,000 employees in Latin America
With Brazil due to host the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, preparations are well under way, including the government’s plans to overhaul of the hospitality sector with new hotels to be built alongside extensive refurbishments. To help reach this goal the Brazilian development bank, BNDES, has launched a credit line of $600 million to finance the construction and refurbishment of hotels.Brazil’s “economic boom” of recent years has affected all areas of the country’s economy – travel and tourism included. The sector contributed $79 billion to the county’s overall GDP in 2011 and the sector is expected to grow at a rate of 7.8 per cent in 2012, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. While growth has been concentrated in the south-east, where Brazil’s largest cities São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro lie, statistics indicate that growth across the nation is presenting many opportunities for international players in the hospitality sector.
While the looming 2014 deadline is certainly spurring growth in the sector – FIFA requires each host city to have 55,000 beds available for the tournament, and Brazil still has some way to go to achieve this – international companies are also focusing on longer-term goals. Brazil has a rapidly growing middle class to cater for and the rise in the country’s international exposure is anticipated to increase the number of foreign visitors each year.
Accor, a leading global hospitality group, is grasping the opportunities available in Brazil. The group’s ambitious development strategy has identified Brazil as a country with “high growth potential” and the group aims to strengthen its already strong presence in the country. Accor announced the opening of its 150th hotel in February of this year and has hotels operating under the brands of Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, Adagio and ibis (including ibis Budget and ibis Styles).
Who’s Who Legal spoke to Luciana Amendola Imbriani Kreidel, legal coordinator of Accor Latin America, about the company’s recent projects and the opportunities in the hospitality sector in Brazil.
Tell us about your role.
My primary responsibilities are to provide support on civil, contractual, tax, labour, intellectual property and corporate matters; coordinate any litigation on civil, tax and labour matters; and to manage the team. The legal department handles matters for the company’s headquarters and all hotels in the group in Latin America, which total more than 180.
I also provide support on M&A transactions and I am responsible for the corporate and IP reports sent to our French headquarters.
Describe a typical day.
My daily routine varies depending on the current projects under way, but on average a typical day consists of meetings, briefings with the officers, analysis of legal issues and contracts, conference calls with external law firms, preparation of reports, supervision of and guidance of the team’s work and replying to any consultations.
How big is the legal department?
Our legal department currently consists of eight full-time lawyers as well as a trainee and two administrative assistants.
Tell us about any recent special projects your team has been working on. Which laws firms did you hire?
Our most recent project was the acquisition of the Mexican group Posadas’ portfolio of hotels in Latin America. For this project we worked with Linklaters LLP and we are now dealing with the post-acquisition integration issues.
Do you tend to use the same law firms?
We have a handful of firms with whom we have long-standing relationships, especially regarding specific matters as a result of successful experiences of working together in the past. When necessary, we retain different firms to assist with new businesses or in situations where our existing firms do not have the specific expertise that is needed.
Is the legal marketplace very competitive? Is there a lot of choice for clients? How can firms distinguish themselves?
The legal market is very competitive and there is a lot of choice for clients. However, in the hotel business, the choices can be more limited due to the peculiarities of our business.
A remarkable firm is one that maintains a consistent level of service during its entire relationship with a client, and the one whose professionals are always available, interested in a client’s business and flexible enough to leave the “by the book” attitude aside when necessary and meet any special needs that clients may momentarily have.
The Brazilian economy has been experiencing remarkable levels of growth in recent years. What impact has this had on the company? Do you see many more international clients at your hotels for both business and leisure?
The high level of growth that the Brazilian economy is experiencing is being reflected in our business. Our company has been growing locally and has expectations to keep growing in the next few years with the addition of new hotels. We expect to see more international
guests coming to our hotels seeking our well-known international standards.
With Brazil due to host the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, how has the company been preparing?
These events are very important to promote tourism in Brazil and abroad and they will generate a great level of demand for hotels during the periods in which they occur. Accor is preparing itself to meet the demand that these events bring, but the group’s commitment to Brazil and long-standing relationship goes beyond specific events.
What is the greatest challenge – legal, practical or political – for companies in the hospitality sector in Brazil?
Due to the fairly recent development of hospitality education in Brazil, the greatest challenge is hiring staff with the education and skills required to deliver an international level of service.
What makes Brazil a “great place to work”?
The great shape of the country’s economy is certainly one factor; another is the warmth and flexibility of Brazilian people, which not only makes them great colleagues but can turn them into lifelong friends.
Of course, this extends to Accor, which for the 14th time in a row has been chosen as a “great place to work” by the Great Place to Work Institute.