Puerto Rico has a great opportunity and can be a powerful competitor in global tourism but it has a way to go to reach those goals, as it must first become a stronger player in the island’s economic development, where it only represents between 6 percent and 8 percent of the overall activity.
To attain that status, however, the island must first take several important steps, said Federico Sánchez, president of Interlink and spokesman for Gov. Luis Fortuño’s newly created tourism council.
“We have excellent attributes but we need to maximize them to reach our potential,” Sánchez said, during the third edition of the government’s Economic Development and Commerce Summit held at the Sheraton Convention Center hotel Tuesday.
“Proximity and ease to reach the U.S. with direct flights to more than 20 cities in the U.S. without needing a passport,” said Sánchez, who heads the company that developed the property where the event took place.
Political and economic stability, as well as sophisticated health and financial systems are pluses, he said, aside from attractive investment mechanisms in place.
“We have to communicate to the world what our competitive set is,” he said. “We have new products, the Convention Center, the Sheraton, the W in Vieques, and soon the Vanderbilt in Condado and the Ritz in Dorado and that’s something we need to talk about.”
Meanwhile he stressed on the pressing need to create a permanent brand for the island and “sticking to it.”
“We need a brand and market it consistently. Jamaica for instance, has an awareness level much higher than us, as they’ve had a campaign for more than 20 years,” he said. “We should crate a destination marketing organization, that’s how our competitors are organized.”
He also mentioned the need to capitalize on the Convention Center’s potential, specifically regarding its ability to generate hotel room stays.
“We need to increase demand and work on our hotel rates, which are the same as 20 years ago. We shouldn’t have to compete on price,” he said.
Seven private-sector executives compose the governor’s advisory council on tourism: Sánchez, Raúl Bustamante, general manager of the Conrad Condado Plaza; Barry Lewin, vice president of the Hilton Corp.; Jorge Bracero, president of Bracero Limousine; Thom Connors, general manager of the Coliseo de Puerto Rico; Jose Busto, president Continental Shipping; and Scott Lawrence, general manager of Jet Blue. They will be responsible for laying out the sector’s good and bad elements, and proposing solutions to the issues.