|Author Joe Pike (left) and Puerto Rico's new Executive Director, Luis G. Rivera-Marín|
Travel Agent was able to score the first interview Thursday with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company's (PRTC) new Executive Director, Luis G. Rivera-Marín, and chatted about everything from Puerto Rico’s luxury products to its always-evolving clientele.
Rivera-Marín, who will be at the helm of a public corporation with more than 500 employees and a budget of $100 million, expressed his commitment to further the goals, objectives and initiatives of PRTC.
“Its always a challenge coming into a role like this for a destination that is already successful,” Rivera-Marín says. “There’s definitely pressure to keep the momentum going. But although it’s a challenge, I know Puerto Rico’s ongoing success didn’t happen by accident. I know why we are successful. I would just like to keep doing what we’ve been doing, being as aggressive as possible.”
And his job won’t be made any harder when the destination opens what it being described by many as the Caribbean’s first six-star resort, the Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve hotel. It is slated to officially open its doors on December 12, Rivera-Marin says, and will further Puerto Rico’s efforts to become the most luxurious destination in the Caribbean, a goal Puerto Rico began to pursue roughly three years ago.
“We won’t see all-inclusives in Puerto Rico anytime in the near future,” Rivera-Marín says. “Do we want to compete with places like the Dominican Republic, where they have low occupancy, low ADR (Average Daily Rate) and low operational costs? At those places, people will spend about $1,450 in six days whereas at places like the W Retreat and Spa Vieques (in Puerto Rico), people will spend about $6,500 in six days.
“We always tell people as a destination, Puerto Rico is all inclusive,” he continues. “We have the best zip-lining in the world, some of the best restaurants in the world, the best hotels and six incredible beaches. It’s all here for anyone.”
Rivera-Marín says as Puerto Rico continues to change its hotel product from mid-level, budget-friendly resorts to its current portfolio of luxury resorts, the clientele has seen a bit of change too.
“We are definitely seeing more affluent families coming to Puerto Rico, but we are seeing a change of where they are coming from too," he says. "Now, we have so many clients coming from Britain, coming from Germany, coming from Spain.”
As far as first quarter numbers goes, the PRTC says Puerto Rico arrivals have remained flat when compared to the same period of last year. Marin also noted that there will be some innovative programs for agents on the horizons.
“We realize how important travel agents are," Rivera-Marín says. "After all, they are the travel experts. We can always use their advice and we can always use their help in selling Puerto Rico. So, we know we really need to increase our promotions for agents since they are such an important part to our success.”
Before joining PRTC and since January 2009, Rivera-Marín was secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs. His prior experience includes tenures as attorney and notary at renowned law firms Lespier & Muñoz Noya, García Arregui & Fullana and Rivera-Marín Law Offices, representing diverse financial, commercial and tourism industry institutions. He has also worked in the private sector as a manager at Procter & Gamble.
“People need to realize that Puerto Rico is totally different than what it used to be," says Rivera-Marín. "I think perhaps some clients out there don’t realize that still. It used to be sand, casinos and nightlife. But now there is just so much more we offer on the island. We are really a complete vacation now, but I think there are people who are still missing that point.”