Puerto Rico tourism officials, buoyed by a lot of upbeat data — half-year occupancy numbers, year-to-date visitor arrivals, hotel construction — are forecasting an increase in annual stayover visitors compared with 2011, which topped 1.4 million.
"We've got some solid numbers at this point and good prospects going forward," said Luis Rivera Marin, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.
New hotels are fueling the destination's forecast of 2,100 new rooms in the next two years, including the recently opened 17-room O:live boutique property in San Juan's Condado area and the 115-room Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Dorado Beach, opening in December.
The 93-room Condado Vanderbilt is slated to open in October, followed by the 230-room Cayo Largo Four Seasons in Fajardo during Q4.
Current room inventory stands at 12,500. On tap is Puerto Rico's first Hyatt Place, opening in 2014 as the 156-room Hyatt Place Bayamon and El Tropical Casino. Bayamon, Puerto Rico's second-largest city, is 15 miles southwest of San Juan and will be the site of a large medical facility, targeting the medical tourism sector.
Also new this year is the Casa Solaris wing at the ecofriendly Hix House in Vieques, touted as the first all-solar Caribbean guesthouse. The large units include four two-person lofts and two two-bedroom suites.
The Royal Isabela private golf community, under construction near Aguadilla on the island's northwest coast, currently offers 10 casitas (bungalow-type lodgings) for visitors, with another 10 opening by summer's end.
"These properties, opening or being built, represent the variety and diversity of accommodations in size and value we can offer our visitors," Rivera Marin said.
"They bolster our tourist product," he said. "We've seen it in RevPAR increases in the first quarter, including a 10% jump in April, as well as increases in occupancy, a trend that's continuing."
Accounting for a sizable chunk of visitors arriving in Puerto Rico is JetBlue, which debuted its new Terminal A in late June at San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin airport.
"The carrier is a solid business partner for Puerto Rico, with 45 flights from three main airports during peak season, 38 of which are from San Juan," Rivera Marin said.
Rivera Marin cited digital strategies and a continued emphasis on agent relationships as key elements of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.'s initiatives.
The aim of the redesigned SeePuertoRico.com website in English and Spanish is to better promote the island's different tourist regions and help visitors plan their trips.
"Puerto Rico is more than a rain forest or beautiful beaches," Rivera Marin said. "Users now find expanded editorial content, listings of hotels and tour operators, more information about activities, attractions and deals, lots of photos and videos and access to mobile applications, including a pocket guide app for the iPhone and soon for the iPad."
The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. will launch a series of fam trips this summer and fall for which agents and a companion can choose from two of several experiences, including a culinary tour, a bioluminescence bay tour or a visit to a farmers market.
"We want to showcase for them the variety that is Puerto Rico," he said.
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