Puerto Rico Announces Latest Hotel Developments

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) recently took part in the Caribbean Marketplace 2007, where it told media and travel professionals highlights of tourism developments.

With several hotels undergoing extensive renovations, and the announcement of new properties (such as St. Regis, W Hotel and Sheraton Puerto Rico Convention Center Hotel), Puerto Rico's tourism industry is on the rise. Currently, 2,308 new hotel rooms are being built, totaling an investment of $777 million. Puerto Rico is reaching toward its goal of 5,000 new hotel rooms by 2008. During 2007, PRTC is working to develop 1,000 additional hotel rooms.

"I really expect this to help our travel agent colleagues in the U.S. They will have many great products to pitch to clients," says Luis Soto, president of the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands chapters of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).

Soto says the Puerto Rico Government is currently spending "millions and millions of dollars" in advertising to U.S. consumers and travel professionals. He says the renovations have been discussed for several years. Now, with progress being made on the renovations, as well as the recent passport restrictions to the Caribbean (the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative), Soto says the timing is perfect.

"With the passport restrictions coming around the same time as the news of the renovations, all you can say is, 'Timing is everything,'" Soto says.

Some of the latest Puerto Rico hotel news: The Water Club in San Juan has officially changed its name to San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel and has added amenities including renovated bathrooms featuring bath and spa products from H20 Plus, clock radios with MP3 player connections and Wi-Fi access.

The Normandie hotel in San Juan just completed an $8 million renovation

San Juan's 173-room Normandie Hotel recently completed an $8 million renovation with features including wireless Internet access throughout the property, 7,000 square feet of meeting space, two 800-gallon fish tanks in the lobby, new art deco furnishings, two restaurants and a spa. The historic hotel is being acquired by Caribbean Property Group and will be transformed into a W Hotel.

The 51-room Plaza de Armas Hotel recently underwent renovations to be converted into the Howard Johnson Plaza de Armas in Old San Juan.

The renovated El Conquistador will include a new water park

LXR Luxury Resorts' properties in Puerto Rico—El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa, El San Juan Hotel & Casino and Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino—have begun extensive $200 million property renovations that will take place over the next several years. Renovations include a new water park at El Conquistador and room, parking area and commercial space expansions at the other properties.

The Paseo Caribe project made the Caribe Hilton in San Juan the largest hotel property in Puerto Rico, with more than 900 rooms. Additionally, a 4,000 square-foot wedding hall was built in the Las Olas Spa area, overlooking the ocean. The San Geronimo ballroom is also being renovated and will double in size.

Starwood Hotels will manage Vieques' renovated Martineau Bay Resort, which is owned by the Reig Group. This hotel will close in April to finalize a $15 million renovation to transform the resort into the first W Resort in the world, scheduled for completion in the fall.

The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has begun a $36.7 million renovation to bring the property to the level of other luxury resorts on the island. The 402 rooms being renovated will gradually come back into service and will be fully completed by March. The 123-room Cabana Wing will be renovated from August to November and will remain open during the process. The finished project will include a grand lobby, updated casino, refreshed ballroom and guest rooms with a new Latin Caribbean look.

A 160-room Courtyard by Marriott is currently under construction in Agua-dilla and is scheduled to open in May.

The Renaissance La Concha Hotel & Casino is scheduled to open by June. The 474-room hotel-condo hotel Renaissance property will offer 15,000 square feet of meeting space, a 15,000-square-foot casino, three restaurants, an oceanfront pool and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center on the beach.

Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club, Puerto Rico's first five-star development, is slated to open in 2008 and will include the St. Regis Resort & Residences Bahia Beach, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. championship oceanfront golf course.

BahiaBeach is taking shape on 483 acres of coconut palms and native maritime forest. The development, which has secured $500 million from investors, will generate 3,200 jobs from construction and 700 permanent jobs once it is open.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts will open the 500-room Sheraton Puerto Rico Convention Center Hotel as the anchor hotel for the Puerto RicoConvention Center that opened in Isla Grande in late 2005. The $209 million hotel will open in 2009 and will be the first hospitality and mixed-use development in the Convention Center District.

The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is scheduled to open by June 2009. The 300-room, independently operated, five-star hotel-condo property will feature 20,000 square feet of meeting space, a gourmet restaurant, bistro, spa and two oceanfront pools.

The PRTC recently purchased the old "Punta Lima" minimum-security prison facility in Naguabo for $8.2 million, with the aim of developing the site as the first ecological hotel complex on the island.

For more information, call 800-866-7827 or visit www.gotopuertorico.com.