By Tamara Pearson
MERIDA — The Venezuelan government nationalised the Hilton Suites and its assets, located on Margarita Island, a popular local and international tourist destination.
The nationalisation or "forced acquisition" was made by presidential decree and announced in the official government bulletin on Friday.
The nationalised hotel has 280 single rooms, 210 suites, the island's biggest casino, a large pool, shops, restaurants, meeting rooms and an adjoining coastal area of 26,000 square metres.
Chavez said the nationalisation was part of the government's plan to rescue the country's tourism and improve the economy. He said the tourist sector is being exploited by companies, of which a majority are foreign owned, to the detriment of the people.
The decree said the hotel and its infrastructure is "indispensable for increasing social and mass tourism on [Margarita Island]" and the nationalisation of the hotel will help "promote socio-economic development," as well as generating jobs, training in tourism, and involving the community in the tourism sector.
The hotel was owned by Inversiones Pueblamar and Desarrollos MBK, companies the government says are immersed in lawsuits with the Bank Superintendency.
The hotel and all its infrastructure will be administered by the Ministry of Tourism and the state company Venezuelan Tourism (Venetur). Hilton's 20 year contract from the government also expired yesterday.
Minister for Tourism, Pedro Morejon, said the hotel would continue operating as normal and all its workers would continue in their positions, with the same labour agreement. He also announced the creation of a tourism training centre in the hotel.
Hilton Worldwide in a press release response to the nationalisation, said it is evaluating how the measure affects its interests, and the nationalised hotel "is still a member of the Hilton system and welcomes its clients with the same level of service that they have always enjoyed."
The hotel was the venue of the America-South Africa Summit in September.
In March this year the government and Venetur also took over Hotel Maremares, a state hotel which was in the hands of a private company which had let it deteriorate. Venetur currently owns and runs eight hotels across the country.
October 15, 2009 — Return to cover.