The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino recently got power service restored and will continue operating normally as it gears up for the upcoming tourism season, which the hotel’s general manager said will need a major marketing boost to bounce back after Hurricane María.
Since the storm clobbered Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, the Marriott in Condado had been operating on generators, providing housing to scores of relief staff sent to the island to work the emergency.
“We’re part of Puerto Rico’s recovery. We’re hosting many groups from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other rescue teams,” he said, noting the hotel is at near full capacity, with 95 percent of rooms occupied.
“Fortunately, we managed to maintain our generators working for more than 30 days after Hurricanes Irma and María hit,” he said, adding that as a result, the hotel was able to preserve the property’s 350 permanent jobs and another 90 to 110 indirect jobs.
As with most San Juan-area hotels, the Marriott Resort did not avoid having its share of structural damage. At present, the property has 132 rooms out of service and undergoing repairs, while the other 404 rooms are ready for use, he said.
“The cabanas, which were remodeled about four years ago, will be out of the inventory until at least March or April 2018,” he said.
The hotel will begin taking reservations on Dec. 3, although González acknowledged that December and January will mark a tough start to Puerto Rico’s tourism high season.
“We’re getting better with each passing day. But when the island has power restored completely, that will spark trust from people to come visit Puerto Rico,” he said.
The marketing efforts to draw tourists should begin in January, so that visitor traffic begins to pick up during the colder months up north.
“The appreciation from the North American tourist for Puerto Rico as a destination is still there,” he said. “I don’t think the relief teams will be here for a long time, so we have to start looking to fill rooms with regular clients.”
The message has to reinforce that Puerto Rico “is OK,” and ensure that people don’t forget about the island as a tourist destination, González-Espinosa said.
As part of its own recovery efforts, the Marriott Resort is launching a number of initiatives to draw locals onto the property. It is selling day passes only to Puerto Rico residents, so they can use its pool area and other facilities, including its Red Coral Lounge lobby bar area and oceanfront La Vista Beachside Grill.
Starting this Sunday and every Sunday in November, the hotel will also host its “Oasis Pool & Beach Fest” series, offering music and entertainment to the general public for $20 per person.
“If we wait for everything to be perfect, we won’t take off. There are many places that are open, many things that are working and returning to normal, and people want to come to Puerto Rico and our hotels,” the executive said. “It’s time to talk positively about Puerto Rico, to see the glass half-full, and to create positive news.”