The Latin American tent industry
InTents | December 2007
In its most common usage, “Latin America” denotes the countries south of the Mexico-U.S. border where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken. It is a homogenous-sounding term that lumps together a very diverse set of countries and cultures. There are seven countries and more than 42 million people in Central America, and in South America there are 12 countries with more than 370 million people. Mexico is the fifth-largest country in the Americas and is home to around 108 million people.
In Mexico City, rental company Publicidad Serna is responding to a demand for higher quality in rental tents. “Mexicans like innovation in tents,” says CEO Miguel Serna. “They are tired of bad-quality tents. Everyone wants to have new, better-looking events.” Serna predicts that Mexico City is on the verge of a boom in the tent rental industry, with frequent rentals offsetting lower rental prices. Hector Mendoza, manager at Carpas y Lonas El Carrousel S.A. de C.V. in Mexico City, finds that the demand is high for large modular tents and aluminum frames.
Aluminum is also well-liked in Brazil, according to Alexandre Dias, director of PPS Industria e Comercio Ltda., a Sao Paulo-based tent manufacturer. “Companies have used more and more high-resistance fabric and have replaced the steel structures with aluminum ones, aiming at higher durability of the product,” Dias says. Several new rental companies have come into the market, Dias says, offering clients a wider range of products such as air conditioning, flooring and lighting.
In Costa Rica, more small businesses are springing up, and prices are becoming more and more important. Gerardo Alvarez, of tent manufacturer Eurotoldos S.A. in San Jose, says raw material prices are on the rise and clients are demanding tents with lighter fabrics that lend themselves to painting or printing. Alvarez also says there has been a significant change in the size of events, with tent sizes on an upward trend.
Booming event industries haven’t solved Latin companies’ labor problems, however. “It is difficult to find high-quality employees,” Alvarez says. “The industry will have to pay more and give better incentives to the workers.” At Eurotoldos, workers with greater longevity receive a percentage of the company’s sales.
Serna also tries using bonuses, offered at the end of the year, to entice workers to stay on. “Labor is the most difficult area in our company,” he says. “We have a lot of rotation in our tent installers. People down here [in Mexico City] do not like to work for a long term. Our turnover rate is very high; we believe it is caused by the lack of tent education.” In addition to bonuses, Serna promotes the company’s geographic reach as a perk to potential employees who might appreciate the chance to travel around Mexico.