29th Caribbean Tourism Conference: Puerto Rico

THE BAHAMAS–At the 29th Caribbean Tourism Conference, in the Bahamas, the Puerto Rico Travel Company outlined its new five-year Tourism & Transportation Strategic Plan. The PRTC has been taking some hits recently from the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA), concerning tourism stats, so it was probably a relief for the PRTC to get back on message.

The Strategic Plan focuses on five areas: hotel development, product development, quality and service, transportation by air, sea, and land, and marketing and branding.

Nelly Cruz Rodriguez, director of public relations for the PRTC, said the goal of the five-year plan is to increase the island's room count to 30,000 and to capture 20 percent of the region's market share. Look for Puerto Rico to add 5,000 new rooms by 2008, with an eye towards diversifying the lodging product with a concentration on luxury accommodations.

The PRTC predicts a 7.4 percent increase in cruise passengers this year, a gain of 95,000 more passengers. The PRTC will continue its "Explore Beyond the Shore" effort by identifying niche markets and developing tourism in the Porta del Sol region in the west, and Porta Caribe region in the south.

Puerto Rico has seen 35 new direct flights from 21 new gateways to the island's three main airports since 2005. Even though visitors from the U.S. do not and will not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico, San Juan is a major hub for the whole region. It remains to be seen how a Caribbean-wide downturn would affect the number of flights coming into Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.In early 2007, the PRTC will launch a new booking engine on [www.puertorico.com], in which consumers will be able to book directly. Although agents will also be able to book, it remains to be seen what the commission structure will be, if anything. (MR)