In its quest to “decentralize tourism beyond the San Juan metropolitan area,” the Puerto Rico Tourism Company offered details Wednesday of a series of development projects — some already underway, others in the pipeline — for a 16-town region in the mountains with an associated $57 million investment.
Tourism Company Executive Director Mario González-Lafuente said the so-called “Mountain Region” will become a focal point for the agency, which seeks to draw more tourists to an area that is becoming a favorite among nature lovers and adventure seekers. The agency is placing special emphasis on ecotourism and agritourism projects, he said.
Some of the projects slated to begin operating later this year are: Hacienda Lealtad, a $2 million agritourism 7-room hotel in Lares; Hotel Media Luna, a $2 million, 18-room hotel in Comerío; and Hacienda Negrón, a 60-room, $4 million hotel proposed for Ciales.
“As with the other five tourism regions throughout the island, the Mountain Region is part of the Tourism Company’s goal of achieving a positive, sustainable impact on the island’s economy taking into consideration the attributes, ecological and social traits that characterize it,” González-Lafuente said.
The so-called Mountain Region comprises the towns of Aguas Buenas, Cidra, Cayey, Comerío, Aibonito, Naranjito, Barranquitas, Corozal, Orocovis, Morovis, Ciales, Jayuya, Florida, Utuado, Adjuntas and Lares. The area currently has about 150 hotel rooms combined, which will increase to nearly 550 rooms after the new hotels begin operating, the tourism chief said. About 445 new hotel jobs will also be created.
Also on the list of projects in the pipeline, for which there are no opening dates yet, are: Hacienda Brisas Frescas in Corozal (16 rooms, $5.5 million investment); Hacienda Verde in Utuado (30 rooms, $2 million investment); Eco-Parque del Tanamá in Utuado (68 rooms, $5 million investment); Club Caribe in Cidra (104 rooms, $20 million investment); and Los Aviones in Barranquitas (15 rooms, $1.7 million investment).
Toro Verde puts Orocovis, P.R. on the world map
Puerto Rico’s mountainous central zone is home to the Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park, which opened in May 2010 in Orocovis and has already become one of the most visited ecotourism parks in the region, with some 50,000 people hitting the attraction during its first year of operations.
During the news conference, Orocovis Mayor Jorge Berlingeri said the wildly successful park — which offers zip lining, mountain climbing and rappelling — has propped the town’s sagging economy, by spurring jobs and related businesses. Restaurants and new hotels are planned to keep up with the demand, he said.
“Two years ago, when I talked to our municipal legislature about this project, they thought I was crazy for thinking that some guys who wanted to spend $1 million to install cables from one mountain to another would find success,” Berlingeri said. “After they started, we’ve seen the opening of five new restaurants, improvements to the ones we already had, and new construction in our town and surrounding towns.”
Sylvia Rivera, marketing and public relations manager at Toro Verde, said the park welcomed an average of 400 to 500 people a day during the end of 2011, which she said that along with the summer months, are the busy seasons. In December, 80 percent of the visitors were not locals, she said.
“We’ve invested a lot of money to advertise the park in and outside Puerto Rico, in trade magazines, and we’ve received important support from the Tourism Company,” she said.
To accommodate the growing demand, Toro Verde’s owners are planning to build the $15 million Oroverde Eco-Resort and Adventure Park, which will include an 80-room hotel that will generate 150 new jobs.