PRTC rolls out travel agent initiatives

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Sweepstakes, online guides, hot lines and commission boosts are among the agent initiatives unveiled by the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC).

A blueprint detailing hotel investments and developments also was announced.

Jose Suarez, the PRTC's deputy executive director, lauded the value of agents' contributions to Puerto Rico's economy.

"Our efforts as a tourism company would be futile without agents," Suarez said. "As a result, we developed educational and incentive reward programs for agents."

Among the initiatives is a redesigned travel agent section of the PRTC's Web site, which includes a resource guide.

The first section of the guide, called Exploring Puerto Rico, divides the island into four regions with information on each section's attractions and culture.

Selling Puerto Rico, the second section, covers vacation options, selling tips and information on the Puerto Rico Travel Expert program.

The certification program consists of seminars, field trips and workshops on numerous topics, including accommodations, golf, spas, diving, history and culture, dining and nightlife, beaches and water sports.

To qualify, agents must attend at least one Go to Puerto Rico seminar, to be held in various U.S. cities in 2003 (dates are to be determined).

Following the seminar, one agent per agency is invited to participate in the expert program for five or seven days.

Sessions range in cost from $99 to $149 per person, including accommodations, room tax, transfers, most meals, seminars, a trade show, study materials and excursions.

After completing the course and passing the test, agents are certified as Puerto Rico experts and receive 12 Institute of Certified Travel Agents credits and invitations to attend regional seminars and specialty courses.

Another initiative is a Puerto Rico Is a Dream sweepstakes, which is valid for bookings of three nights or more made through Jan. 31 for travel through April 30.

The contest features daily cash prizes of $100 and the chance for the grand prize of a 2003 Volvo.

Agents earn 10 points for every booking and one point for correctly answering the Question of the Day, posted on the agent section of the Web site.

The PRTC also said more than 30 properties in Puerto Rico are participating in a 15% commission offer for direct bookings on pre- and post-cruise packages through Sept. 30.

For a list of properties, agents can call (800) 223-6530.

Finally, Suarez said the PRTC will launch a dedicated agent hot line for speedy access by telephone or e-mail for collateral materials and tourist information.

"We will also assist agents in resolving problems that arise regarding commission payments, service providers or any of our facilities," he said.

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