SAN JUAN -- New tourism initiatives in Puerto Rico for fiscal year 2003-2004 include hotel construction; improved ground transportation; a focus on Boston as an emerging gateway; the opening of a regional tourist office on the island's west coast; the launch of a statistical page on the island's Web site and the creation of a tourism rating system.

Jose Suarez, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC), unveiled its business plan during the PRTC's annual "Tourism is You" industry presentation here.

Suarez referred to the past fiscal year as one "in which we overcame various challenges, including war and SARS, which directly affected our industry."

"This year's initiatives will continue Puerto Rico's tourism industry along a path of growth and economic development," he said. "Our industry must work together toward a common goal."

Key components of the plan include:

• Development of new air services from the U.S., Europe, South America and the Caribbean. The PRTC met with 29 airlines last year in an effort to boost interest in new routes.

• Hotel development, especially on the island's east coast, is "booming," according to Suarez. He cited the construction of the San Miguel Four Seasons and JW Marriott Dos Mares hotels, which begin next year in the Rio Grande region.

• The Condado Trio project in San Juan, which will renovate the Condado Vanderbilt and La Concha hotels, is "moving forward," Suarez said.

Plans call for the construction of three condo-hotel towers with a total room count of 750, an investment of more than $200 million and the creation of 600 jobs.

• Construction of the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan is on track for completion in 2005. A Web site at www.prconvention.com was launched recently.

• Suarez said the PRTC is "developing an incentive program for taxi drivers and ground tour operators to upgrade their fleets."

• The PRTC will add Boston as a promotional and marketing focus, in addition to its established efforts in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Niche markets will also be emphasized, including golf, scuba, adventure and spa.

• Porta del Sol, a marketing initiative launched last year for Puerto Rico's west coast, will continue with the opening of a new visitors center in Cabo Rojo and a regional tourist office in Mayaguez.

• A new stats page on www.gotopuertorico.com will include results from PRTC research studies to help establish an accurate tourist profile for the destination.

• The PRTC's new Tourism Quality Program will utilize onsite evaluations, guest comment cards and quality control inspections performed by the PRTC "as the first steps toward creating a reliable rating system for Puerto Rico," Suarez said.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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