New tourism chief implements hotel development plan By Gay Nagle Myers / October 19, 1999 Share 1 -- SAN JUAN -- Jose A. Corujo took over the helm of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. in August as its new executive director. And he's wasted no time. "We have set five objectives as guidelines for the course of hotel development in Puerto Rico," Corujo said.The objectives are: tourism decentralization; product diversification; market diversification; creation of new air routes, and quality of visitor services.Puerto Rico has 3,100 hotel rooms under construction, ranging from paradors to name chains to the island's first inclusive resort. A convention center is in the works, and airlift into San Juan will increase substantially this winter when new carriers enter the market.Visitor figures for the fiscal year, which ended June 30, topped the 1.6 million mark, up 4.3% over the same period of the previous year. U.S. traffic accounts for 70% of that figure.A new ad campaign made its debut Oct. 4 and Puerto Rico's Web site ( www.prtourism.com) will be enhanced in November with a special kid's site and again next March when a travel agent site opens.Corujo, who served as executive director of finance and later as acting executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., is understandably optimistic about the future of tourism in Puerto Rico."The average hotel occupancy in Puerto Rico is running at 71.9% now, up 4.6% over the same period last year," Corujo said. "We are in desperate need of new hotel rooms all over the island. By the end of next year, we will have 16,000 rooms open or under construction." The new 30-room Milano Hotel helps visitor flow in Old San Juan.A marketing plan, just unveiled, targets new markets of opportunity for Puerto Rico and is backed by concrete plans to reach those markets.The following is a status report on hotel developments:Martineau Bay Resort, 156 rooms and 30 villas, will open in February in Vieques.Costa Bonita Hotel and Villas, 164 rooms, is scheduled to open in July 2001 in Culebra.Hostal Bahia Mar, 16 rooms, will open in November, also in Culebra.Cayo Largo Inter-Continental Beach Resort, 314 rooms in the first phase, will open next November in Fajardo.Ocean Villas, part of the Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort, 59 villas, will open next fall in Rio Grande.Casa Cubuy Ecolodge, 10 rooms, will open this fall in Naguabo.Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Casino and Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach Resort & Casino will debut facilities in November, including restaurants, renovated rooms, meetings facilities and golf courses.The expanded Spa del Sol at Hyatt Regency also will open at the same time.Caribe Hilton, 672 redesigned rooms, new lobby, executive conference center, pool complex and restaurant, will open Dec. 25 in San Juan.Embassy Suites, 174 suites plus a 182-room condominium/hotel, will open in November 2000 in Dorado del Mar.The site for Paradisus Sol Melia, Puerto Rico's first inclusive resort, is still being scouted; the locale will probably be in the Rio Grande area.The government is finalizing the sale of the Ponce Hilton to a private buyer.In other news, construction on a 500,000-square-foot convention center, which is projected to reach 80% of the meetings market in the U.S., is slated to start in the first quarter of next year. The opening could be at the end of 2002.Corujo said an 800-room hotel in Isla Grande in San Juan will open at the same time as the convention center.Airline news in Puerto Rico is as positive as the hotel reports. "The increased services from TWA and Continental this winter will represent a 400% jump over last year," Corujo said. "We can now reach many more markets with direct flights."