Acknowledging that 2011 was a “challenging” year for Puerto Rico’s small inns, Tourism Company Executive Director Mario González-Lafuente called a meeting with industry executives Wednesday to present a proposal to aggressively promote those hotels among travel agents.
The initiative calls for integrating the island’s “paradores” in the “Puerto Rico Travel Expert” program aimed at training travel industry professionals on specific attractions and unique qualities of certain tourism products.
“We recognize the difficult situation some of these small hotels are experiencing and are making available tools like this so they can get the maximum benefit from programs created by the Tourism Company to generate immediate sales without requiring investments” said González-Lafuente.
The PRTE program offers trainings to travel agents on the best ways to promote and get bookings for the island’s “paradores.” The initiative will reward travel agents achieving the highest number of room nights booked from February to May 2012 with cash and prizes.
Present at the meeting were the owners of the Parador Villas de Sotomayor, Villas del Mar, Mauna Caribe, Palmas de Lucía, Costa del Mar, Guánica 1929, Caribbean Paradise, El Faro, El Buen Café, Bahía Salinas and Boquemar. There is a total of 18 Tourism Company-certified “paradores” throughout the island.
“I believe this is an excellent strategy by the Tourism Company to improve the performance of small inns and ‘paradores,’” said Myrna Hau, owner of Villas del Mar Hau in Isabela. “We know this support and others will help this sector’s recovery will contribute to improve occupancy.”
Puerto Rico’s small inn and ‘paradores’ sector was hit hard last year by the tough weather conditions, especially during the peak local tourism season in June, July and August, which saw higher-than-normal rainy episodes. The circumstances held some of the small inns from achieving their room-night sales goals, González-Lafuente said.
Despite the challenges, members of the Small Inns Association are setting their hopes on the Tourism Company “which has been proactive in seeking out alternatives to improve our results,” said Jesús Ramos, president of the trade group.
“This year is shaping up to be unprecedented in terms of an increase in occupancy,” he said.