The Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association will mark its annual convention to be held Sept. 17-21 by asking the island’s gubernatorial candidates to outline their strategies to tackle five main “pillars” of concern to the industry: security, the current labor situation, energy costs, casino-related problems, and the much-discussed creation of the destination management organization.
“As an industry, we see this convention as an important opportunity to contribute to the formulation of public policy that supports our sector’s development. We also seek to benefit our members by promoting an exchange of best practices and an incentive to continuously seek ways to strengthen what we offer,” said Ismael Vega, president of the PRHTA’s Board of Directors.
The candidates will meet face-to-face with PRHTA convention-goers during a session slated for Sept. 18 at 4 p.m.
“The gubernatorial candidates’ forum will serve as a space for them to lay out their vision and plans for our industry should they win the November election,” PRHTA President Clarisa Jiménez said.
While some of the issues on the PRHTA’s mind are self-explanatory, Jiménez noted that with regards to the labor situation the group is pursuing establishing more flexible work days and weeks, “which is something the employees themselves have asked for.”
“We know, for example, of hotel employees who have to work at three different properties to meet their hours because they’re not able to do so at a single property, as the labor laws stand right now,” she said. “It’s not about taking away benefits, but about making things more flexible for the employer and the employee.”
Meanwhile, the trade group executives confirmed the two years spent on lobbying efforts to create the DMO — a privately run organization that would handle Puerto Rico’s marketing and branding needs — have yielded results so far, and Jiménez said there is a good chance decisions will come down the pipeline next year.
“We’ve come a long way, and I would like to say that it’s a done deal, but the truth is that we still have work to do,” Jiménez said. “We knew this wouldn’t be easy or pleasing to everybody, because we’re looking to break with tradition, to take control of Puerto Rico’s branding, which is currently subject to political whims.”
“All of the gubernatorial candidates and their parties have been briefed on what we want to do, and we hope to see something happen next year,” she added.
During the annual convention, themed “The Right Path to Tourism Growth,” participants will also be able to take part in an educational track and open discussions.
“We will also hold an open discussion titled ‘Industry Voices Show the Way,’ where a segment of our industry will share their experiences regarding the successful strategies that they have adopted over the past years as they face hostile economic conditions, their businesses’ current reality and how the creation of a destination marketing organization would benefit them,” Jiménez added.
Invited speakers include Susanne Gaddis, known as the “Communications Doctor,” an author and speaker who has been featured on U.S. radio and TV and will offer a trio of seminars: “What to Say when You’re Stuck! Aimed at managing conflict — especially in the workplace,” Listening Skills: Listening with your eyes and ears,” and “How to Deliver Effective Presentations.”
Also slated to speak are: Dean Savoca, a recognized leadership coach, who will lead a seminar about the 10 attributes of successful leaders; Josué Merced-Reyes, who will address global food, flavor and beverage trends; and local expert Jessica Morales, president of Jess! Excellent Service Consulting, who will offer tips on how to run a successful restaurant or food and beverage operation, among other seminars.
The PRHTA will hold elections and awards ceremonies during the event.