Meet Puerto Rico and key components of the island’s tourism industry expressed their support Monday of the House Bill 2867, which would establish a fixed daily surcharge of $3.50 on car rentals by non-residents.
Money raised through this mechanism would allow Meet Puerto Rico to maintain and increase its efforts to attract groups and conventions to Puerto Rico and will help to protect natural resources, trade group President Milton Segarra said.
“For more than 54 years, Meet Puerto Rico has been responsible for attracting group and conventions to our hotels and the Convention Center, contributing significantly to the economic development of Puerto Rico,” he said.
“Establishing a fixed daily surcharge on car rentals is vital to continue strengthening the groups and conventions segment, which represents approximately 25 percent of business for hotels with meeting space,” he said.
The primary purpose of House Bill 2867, introduced by Rep. Ángel Matos, is to create the “Puerto Rico Groups and Destination Marketing Fund” to further develop the groups and conventions segment of the island’s tourism industry.
It also creates the “Puerto Rico Ecotourism Facilities Conservation and Management Fund” to make these facilities self-sufficient, and an additional fund for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company to continue promoting the destination.
Those funds would come the $3.50 surcharge that would exclude motor vehicles with chauffeur services, such as taxis and limousines; loaner cars provided by car dealers without cost to their clients; motor vehicles under leasing contracts; and motor vehicles rented to people with a Puerto Rico driver’s license.
“These surcharges on daily car rentals are very common in the U.S. and other parts of the world. In the U.S., there are more than 85 jurisdictions with similar programs, all of them working and contributing to the development of the tourism industry in those destinations,” Segarra said.
“These surcharges do not reduce the destination’s competitiveness. Just the opposite, the destination loses competitiveness when it is not able to market appropriately facilities such as the Convention Center and when it lacks the capacity to grant sponsorships to attract groups and conventions of high economic impact,” he said.
A benefit of this bill is that it assigns funds to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources for the conservation and management of ecotourism facilities. The agency will receive recurring funding through the creation of program that will benefit state forests, natural reserves and wildlife refuges throughout the island.
Finally, the bill will immediately free the government from approximately $3.8 million in financial commitments, including the funds assigned to market and sell the Puerto Rico Convention Center and the sponsorship fund of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
During fiscal year 2015, groups and conventions attracted by Meet Puerto Rico were responsible for $100 million in direct expenditures, for a return on investment of 1,500 percent. During the last seven years, Meet Puerto Rico has contributed $550 million in direct expenditures from groups and conventions, according to data provided by the organization.