SAN JUAN -- To celebrate the 30th birthday of Puerto Rico's 23 paradors -- a network of small, privately owned, family-run country inns outside San Juan -- the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC) launched a year-long, $600,000 promotional campaign called "30 Years of Family Tradition" aimed at generating visitor traffic to paradors on weekdays, when occupancies run low.

"Each parador has something different to offer in style and history. However, all share the same mission of family ownership and pride in the service they provide," said Jose Suarez, the PRTC's executive director.

Unlike the paradors in Spain, which are government owned and run, Puerto Rico's paradors must be privately owned and operated by the proprietor. They must also be located outside the San Juan metropolitan and have at least seven and no more than 75 rooms. Picturesque locations and nearby attractions such as beaches, mountains and historical sites are recommended but not required.

The current roster includes properties scattered throughout Puerto Rico's mountain towns, fishing villages and the countryside, representing 924 guest rooms, which is approximately 8% of the island's total room inventory of 12,317 rooms.

Unlike large hotels, paradors often lack amenities such as room service, laundry facilities and fitness centers.

"Paradors target budget-conscious travelers by offering affordable rates and basic services," Suarez said.

Daily rates at most paradors average between $65 and $110 per night, double. The starting rate for a small inn not in the parador program is $95 per night, double.

One deal linked to the promotional campaign is a two-night weekday package that offers a third weekday night for $30, valid through May for any property in the program.

Myrna Hau, president of the Parador Owners Association and owner of Villas del Mar Hau in Isabela on the island's north coast, said that some paradors need infrastructure and physical improvements.

"There are no special government incentives for parador owners who run a breakeven business or even report financial losses because they don't generate enough tourist traffic," Hau said.

Some properties can be drummed out of the program for not remodeling or keeping up appearances, she said.

Hau said that the promotional campaign is the first aimed specifically at paradors. "I believe that the government should give more attention to the parador program because it represents the Puerto Rican hotel industry," she added.

However, the PRTC and the government's Economic Development Bank did set up a fund earlier this year to help small and midsize tourism-related businesses obtain private loans for renovations, updates and improvements.

One parador that has already benefited from the fund is Parador Guajataca in Quebradillas in northwestern Puerto Rico, the oldest member of the network.

The property is applying for a $5 million loan to remodel its facilities and build a convention and recreation center.

"I believe it is mandatory nowadays to operate a modern facility to attract other markets. We have an old building that doesn't meet our customers' requirements because the rooms are too small," said owner German Chavez.

For a listing of Puerto Rico's paradors, visit www.gotopuertorico.com or call (800) 866-7827.

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

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