Juan Pablo Barrera – Decameron All Inclusive Hotels & Resorts

Sunny outlook for hotel expansion

Well-versed in business and law, Juan Pablo Barrera doesn’t hesitate to answer which he prefers in his capacity as vice president of legal affairs for Decameron All Inclusive Hotels & Resorts, a giant in the hospitality industry of nine Latin American countries.

“Business, especially when it involves building something,” the personable Barrera tells Vanguard in October from his office in Bogotá, Colombia. “Devising the strategy and the business relationships to make it all happen. That’s definitely more enjoyable than merely legal issues.”

Juan Pablo Barrera – Decameron All Inclusive Hotels & Resorts Vanguard Law Magazine

All the better, he says, when the result of that construction stands to improve a troubled region bypassed by other investors. In this case, he’s referring to Haiti, where in 2016, Decameron became the first company in around three decades to create a new resort on the western side of this Caribbean island. A country so blessed by sun and sea, yet cursed by hurricanes and earthquakes as well as dictatorial governments, systemic corruption and substandard infrastructure.

Yet Haiti’s constant trials and tribulations may give its current, more enlightened, leadership incentive to welcome aboard those who stand to bring economic development to their half of the island. That would include Barrera’s employer, whose Royal Decameron Indigo Beach resort is thriving at what was once a boarded-up Club Med on the white sand beaches of the Arcadins Coast.

All welcome

The permitting process in Haiti is very manageable, Barrera says, explaining that unlike some of the countries where he’s helped enable Decameron operations, there’s little in the way of red tape when it comes to Haitian development.

“They welcome the investment and the regulations are very relaxed,” he says. “You don’t encounter too many legal issues here. They’re trying to attract tourists and the other side of the island (Dominican Republic) is a big destination. The beaches are the same in Haiti so there’s no reason there can’t be the rebirth of a tourist destination here.”

Juan Pablo Barrera – Decameron All Inclusive Hotels & Resorts Vanguard Law Magazine

There are, however, a slew of practical problems, among them the deficient airport, roads and public services. Perhaps because Haiti had fallen off the tourist charts for so long, there’s also little in the way of tourist recourse, which shortsighted companies might exploit, though Barrera says that’s not the case with Decameron.

“The last thing we would ever want is a fight with a consumer,” he says. “You want them to return and spread the word to their friends. Any time a dispute goes to a legal discussion, it shows you didn’t manage it correctly.”

Further reason to take a customer-first approach comes from Decameron’s CEO Fabio Villegas, who logged 11 years as the very meticulous boss of Avianca, one of Latin America’s top airlines, and knows well the value of a good corporate reputation. Since the opening of Royal Decameron Indigo Beach, the company’s reputation has indeed sparkled in Haiti, Barrera assures, with several hundred locals employed and benefits spinning off to the region’s fishermen who are relied upon for fresh catches.

“It’s also my favorite place to visit,” Barrera says, waxing eloquent about the beauty of the mountains and the sea, the combination of African and Caribbean influences, and the fascinating history of this being a country founded by former slaves. “It’s very uncommon to find such a mix in any land.”

That said, the rest of Decameron’s middle-class oriented, all-inclusive destinations also seem well worth the visit.

Portfolio grows

Latest on that list is the Decameron Golf, Beach Resort & Villas on the Panamanian Pacific coast that the company reacquired last March after developing it in 2000 and selling it to Caribbean Property Group in 2007. Decameron actually operated the resort, 18-hole Mantarraya Golf Club and convention center for 10 years, so in some ways the deal was consummated rather easily.

Decameron envisions a hefty expansion there and proudly notes its portfolio has expanded to 33 hotels in Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, Haiti and Ecuador.

Juan Pablo Barrera – Decameron All Inclusive Hotels & Resorts Vanguard Law Magazine

“I really enjoy the adrenaline rush of being a merger and acquisitions lawyer,” he says. “More are pending, but it’s too early for me to announce them.”

Meanwhile, grounds have been broken for a new hotel on a Colombian island, while the finishing touches are being put on one near Lima, Peru. Another is being expanded by the Peru-Colombian border. A tortuous permitting process in Chile has caused Decameron to abandon plans there.

Quite the challenge keeping track of the building codes in nine jurisdictions, Barrera says. Though Spanish is usually the language spoken, it’s not quite the same throughout each country. And while civil law is generally practiced in Latin America, it too isn’t boilerplate.

“Details with lots of devils,” he says with a gentle laugh. “Though it’s civil law, it’s structured differently everywhere—the appeals courts, how consumer law is managed and so on. It sure makes it interesting; any discussion you have to start from scratch, and it helps to have dependable outside counsel.”

A 1998 law graduate of Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia, the now 43-year-old Barrera came to Decameron in July 2014, after building up an impressive resume as a private lawyer and in-house counsel. His  previous stop was two years with Organización Corona, a Colombian based multinational dedicated to the manufacturing and commercialization of home improvement and construction products. Prior to his arrival at Decameron, there was no centralized legal team. Barrera now oversees 15 in-house lawyers as well as outside counsel.

In-house is where he’s most comfortable, the role making Barrera a partner to an enterprise’s performance and affording an intimate look at the results of his advice. As to how he got into law, Barrera says he opted for it over engineering and economics, one reason being Colombia was in turmoil during his formative years and he hoped to do his part for justice and legal order.

“I also flipped a coin when choosing majors,” he says with a laugh.

If so, the right side must have turned up—for him as well as the far-flung locales that have benefited on his watch.

Published on: November 28, 2018

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.


As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.


Summer I 2024



  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.