Puerto Rico: Questions and Answers

Teresa Caballero recently joined the Puerto Rico Tourism Company as its new deputy executive director of marketing. She discusses travel to the island and her marketing plans with contributing editor Robin Amster.

TW: How did Puerto Rico's tourism industry fare this year, and what do you expect for 1998?

Caballero: For the fiscal year 1996-1997, registrations in Puerto Rico's hotels and paradors, our small inns, totaled 1,218,889, representing 3,289,655 guests. The average occupancy rate for this period was 70.1%. The average occupancy rate in the metropolitan San Juan area from January through April 1996 was 83.8%, a 2.4% increase over the same period in 1995. We expect to keep the occupancy rates throughout the island above 70% for this fiscal year.

TW: What goals do you have for tourism to Puerto Rico?

Caballero: We want to decentralize tourism out of the San Juan metropolitan area.

We also want to work on expanding the length of time tourists spend here; that figure now is 2.7 days. We plan to develop strategies and programs, including advertising and special promotions, aimed at having visitors stay longer.

It's also important that people get to know the island and the different attractions. Not that we want to de-emphasize San Juan, but we want to let visitors know of the other areas throughout Puerto Rico. Most of these areas, like El Yunque tropical rain forest on the eastern side of the island, have great paradors. Puerto Rico also has more than 10 golf resorts, including, for example, El Conquistador Resort & Country Club and the new Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Country Club. This is quite distinctive for a Caribbean destination.

TW: You are new to the tourism industry. How do you view the role of travel agents?

Caballero: I am coming into the industry from the consumer goods business and I know it is critical in the distribution of products that people be aware of those products. I see travel agents as a key element in providing that consumer awareness. We have a program of road shows and seminars for travel agents. We are also being a bit stronger this year on the educational aspects of our program. We feel we really have to get closer to the agents and communicate to them the excitement of what's happening in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Tourism Company: (800) 223-6530, fax (212) 818-1866.

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