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Puerto Rico Senate looking to roll back Tourism Co. consolidation into DDEC

The Puerto Rico Senate is looking to halt the consolidation of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. into the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish) umbrella that is currently underway, stating the need for a “dedicated and autonomous entity to serve the interests of the local tourism sector and the world.”

Senate Bill 1692, which is reportedly the Legislature’s third attempt in recent months at rolling back the merger of the agencies, was referred late last month to the Senate’s Government Affairs Commission.

The measure defends the Tourism Co.’s role in Puerto Rico’s pandemic recovery efforts, and calls for amending several existing laws, including the mandate that paved the way for the consolidation, as well as the Gaming Act, the Room Tax Act, the Convention Center District Act, and the Puerto Rico Incentives Code to restore its independence.

Although the government has sought to maximize resources to shore up public finances by consolidating agencies, some of those decisions could be reconsidered, the bill states.

“There are multiple ambiguities that exist regarding the consolidation of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company to the DDEC. Right now, there is no clear and delineated plan that ensures that the funds, once they [are assigned] to the administration of the DDEC, are not diluted in such a way that it is not possible to comply with legal obligations such as cruise ship incentive payments or the contribution to Discover Puerto Rico,” the measure states.

“Furthermore, the Government of Puerto Rico will not have a dedicated and autonomous entity to serve the interests of the local tourism sector and the world,” it added.

“We cannot run the risk that the thought of consolidating the Puerto Rico Tourism Company as an office within the DDEC will represent savings for the Treasury, ultimately becoming an economic crisis in the absence of a methodology for a clear and orderly implementation,” the measure further notes.

Another concern that the measure establishes is that a potential consolidation of the Tourism Co. into the DDEC will cut its independence and agility to respond to industry issues. The measure also questions whether the Tourism Co. will be able to uphold its duty of collecting hotel room tax revenue to float Discover Puerto Rico.

However, Discover Puerto Rico CEO Brad Dean said a potential merger of the Tourism Co. into the DDEC would not affect the entity he heads, as “our contract is with the government. And we have a good working relationship with both [agencies].”

A source familiar with the legislative process who spoke on the condition of anonymity said analyzing and passing the bill — if it happens — could take between three and six months to resolve.

Tourism Co. in limbo
In related news, this media outlet confirmed that the Tourism Co. is currently in a state of limbo, and without an executive director, as Carla Campos resigned from the post on Dec. 31, 2020. Deputy Director Carlos Mercado has been appointed to head the agency on an interim basis, this media outlet learned.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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