U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce Francisco Sánchez urged Puerto Rico Wednesday to take advantage of the recently formed U.S. Corporation for Travel Promotion, which has $200 million to market the mainland and its jurisdictions on a global scale.
Tourism, he said, is the island’s main export product and Puerto Rico should take strategic action to market itself aggressively.
“This is the first time the U.S. will have money to advertise abroad. Other countries around the world have been doing this for years, us, not so much and that’s about to change and Puerto Rico needs to be a part of that,” Sánchez said during a panel discussion focusing on building competitive structures, during Wednesday’s Economic Development Summit, which is part of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status.
“I encourage PR to meet with the Corporation for Travel’s board to be sure you’re on the radar. The board has been around for six months and hasn’t spent a dime yet,” said Sánchez.
Tourism is a significant contributor to economic development on the island, pumping some $1.8 billion into Puerto Rico’s economy and generating more than 60,000 jobs.
The hospitality industry is just one of the island’s assets, as are other services that it could export to help the U.S. strategy of boosting trade levels with other Latin American countries, specifically Panama and Colombia, Sánchez said.
“By the end of the year well have three new trading agreements and Puerto Rico is very well-positioned to be big part of the national export initiative,” Sánchez said.
As of 2008, Puerto Rico had more than 1,500 companies that export, 87 percent of them considered small and mid-sized businesses, which is also reflective of the number throughout U.S. mainland, Sánchez said.
“Puerto Rico has a good manufacturing base and is well-positioned geographically to take advantage of the agreements we’re looking to sign,” the White House representative said.