SAN JUAN -- No one seems to have told tourism officials in Puerto
Rico that the U.S. economy is sluggish.
With 21 new hotels under construction -- and three properties
due to open by the end of the year -- Puerto Rico's lodging sector
paints an optimistic picture.
And that's just the way officials want it.
"Powerful Dynamic Evolution" is the theme of the Puerto Rico
Tourism Co.'s (PRTC) recently launched initiatives that cover
financial incentives, research and development, promotion and
"We want to enhance the overall tourism experience and introduce
programs that convey the diversity of Puerto Rico," said Jose
Suarez, the PRTC's deputy executive director. "We want a stronger
tourism industry that will contribute to our economic
The new hotels, which represent an investment of more than $560
million, will add 2,261 rooms to Puerto Rico's inventory (a 15%
increase in total capacity), for a total of 15,218 rooms.
Projects under way include:
• Cayo Largo InterContinental, with 350 rooms spread over 600
acres and two nature reserves. It will be located in Fajardo, an
hour east of San Juan. Opening is set for December.
• Rincon of the Seas-Grand Caribbean Hotel, a four-star,
112-room property on Puerto Rico's west coast, aimed at the family
market. The first phase of the resort is set to open later this
• Marriott Courtyard Isla Verde, the former Holiday Inn Crowne
Plaza located 15 minutes from the airport in San Juan. The property
plans to open Dec. 16.
• Caguas Hampton Inn, south of San Juan. It will debut next
• Paradisus Puerto Rico Beach & Golf Resort, in Rio Grande,
east of San Juan, will be Puerto Rico's first inclusive resort and
will carry the Sol Melia brand. A November 2003 opening is
Blueprints for more
Suarez said up to 56 more properties, totaling 8,627 rooms, are
"The total investment in present and planned projects is more than
$2.2 billion, resulting in a 56% inventory increase," he said.
Major projects now under development include the 412-room
Fairmont Coco Beach Resort in Rio Grande, which begins construction
In the Condado area of San Juan, both the historic Condado
Vanderbilt, built in the early 1900s, and La Concha, constructed in
the 1950s, are under renovation.
When completed, both hotels will flank the new Ventana al Mar
urban waterfront plaza, which will form the centerpiece of a major
renovation along Ashford Avenue on the site of the old convention
The new Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, targeted for
a spring 2005 opening, will include 580,000 square feet of meetings
space, a 159,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a 40,000-square-foot
Suarez said an anchor hotel with 850 rooms is expected to open
in 2006. The second phase will include another hotel and more
meetings space, he said.
Running hand in hand with the PRTC's emphasis on customer
service is the launch of its SuperHost program.
Suarez said the program, licensed by the Vancouver Convention
& Visitors Bureau, "is an established set of tourism
hospitality guidelines that will train and educate our service
Puerto Rico is the first Caribbean destination and the first
Spanish-speaking country to implement the program.
Training started this month in Culebra and will move to other
groups in Rincon and Mayaguez on the west coast.
The island's west coast figures prominently in the PRTC's plans
in other ways.
A new strategic branding plan, called Porta del Sol-Puerto Rico,
includes marketing and development initiatives aimed at building a
stronger tourism infrastructure and increasing awareness about this
section of the island.
Kiosks and signage
The first tourist information kiosk opened in Fajardo, and eight
more will be available at convenience stores in gas stations by
Tourists will have online access to maps and information about
nearby attractions, accommodations and restaurants as they drive
around the island.
In addition to the kiosks are new international signs that soon
will go up on major highways to make it easier for tourists to
locate attractions and recognize geographical features.
The PRTC created several surveys to analyze cruise visitor
satisfaction, hotel occupancies and visitor statistics.
Suarez said the studies supplement existing exit/entry surveys
conducted at the airport.
On the cruise front, the PRTC negotiated a marketing agreement
with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.
"We now have an eight-minute video about Puerto Rico in each
passenger's cabin, we distribute island brochures at the pier and
we provide scripts and guidebooks to the ship's crew so they can
advise passengers about Puerto Rico," Suarez said.
In addition, the PRTC promotional staff board the ships while in
port to talk with passengers. Youngsters, part of a Puerto Rico,
Young at Heart program launched by the PRTC, welcome cruise
arrivals with live music and dance at the pier.
To contact the PRTC, call (800) 866-7827 or visit www.gotopuertorico.com on the Web.
Island to open eco-parks
SAN JUAN -- Nature tourism figures high on the priority list of
the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.
The PRTC is launching Ecoterra, a nature reserves project that
will create ecotourism parks from existing nature reserves. The new
parks will have specialized guides and facilities for biking,
climbing, trekking and kayaking, while adhering to ecological
guidelines set by the National Park System.
The first park will be at the Reserva de Humacao on the island's
east coast and will include parking facilities, welcome centers,
tour guide programs and equipment rental facilities.