Ritz-Carlton San Juan Property Slated to Open in December

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Reed Travel Features

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. will stamp its imprint on a third Caribbean destination this year when its San Juan, Puerto Rico, property opens in December.

Construction is on schedule at the 419-room Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Hotel & Casino in the Isla Verde section of San Juan.

"This is the first Ritz-Carlton with a casino," said Manny Corral, regional director of marketing, Latin America and the Caribbean.

"It will be a very tasteful gaming facility and will be consistent with what guests have come to expect of the Ritz-Carlton experience."

He described the casino as a "benchmark" for Ritz-Carlton, one that is targeted at the service end of a guest's stay.

Architecturally, the property will evoke a feel of 1950s Havana and will reflect the colonial heritage of San Juan, Corral said, including the 15,000 square feet of meeting and conference rooms.

Guest rooms will have dataport access for laptop terminals; dining facilities will include four restaurants, casual poolside dining, room service, casino dining and a cigar bar.

Christmas week is a near sellout, Corral said, as are several other weeks next winter.

As at the other Ritz-Carltons, the San Juan resort will offer the Ritz Kids program for guests ages 4 to 12.

Ritz-Carlton opened its Cancun resort in 1993 and its St. Thomas property last December.

Further expansion within the region still is very much a possibility, Corral said.

"We are continuing to look at several other projects in the Caribbean region, although there is no announcement at this point. We are very pleased with our results thus far in Mexico and on St. Thomas," he said.

Pleased is what Ritz-Carlton executives should be these days.

The opening of the 396-room shell-pink Ritz-Carlton Cancun, in April 1993 marked the hotel firm's debut in the Caribbean and Latin American markets.

"Cancun as a destination had been stagnant until then," Corral said, who credited the opening of the hotel as the beginning of a new tourism movement in Cancun, one that has continued to grow as Cancun has improved its infrastructure and enhanced its reputation as a travel destination.

Service, a key element in Ritz-Carlton's credo and operating philosophy, is alive and well at both the Cancun and St. Thomas properties.

Most of the employees at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun are Mexican nationals, Corral said.

"When we opened, 70% of our staff were Mexicans; training and hiring since then have brought us to our current level of 98% local staff," he said.

Already, the resort has earned top awards after only three years of operation, including the AAA Five Diamond Award this year and last and Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List in 1996.

It also was voted the Best Hotel in Mexico and Central and South America by Travel & Leisure.

Ritz-Carlton's presence on St. Thomas also has had a positive effect on the destination's image as the island continues its renaissance since the 1995 hurricane season.

The 148-room, four-suite resort -- the former Grand Palazzo -- already has exceeded projections in terms of occupancy and advance bookings, attributed to several sellout periods in mid-January and March.

By the time the property made its debut, the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas sported a new peach-colored exterior accented by coppertine green roofs; a fully restored interior; a pool and beach pavilion; an open-air cafe, dining room and lobby lounge; landscaped gardens, and a newly groomed white-sand beach.

Guests receive the full amenities packages at both the Cancun and St. Thomas resorts, including in-room safes, a refreshment center with a service bar, a private balcony with a waterview, terrycloth robes, quality toiletries and marble bathrooms.

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