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Tourism on alert over bill that would kill Meet Puerto Rico

The infographic shows Meet Puerto Rico's contributions to the island's economy.

The infographic shows Meet Puerto Rico’s contributions to the island’s economy.

The tourism sector raised a red flag Tuesday over the filing of a Senate Bill late last week that would effectively kill Meet Puerto Rico, the island’s convention and groups coordinator responsible for generating more than $110 million a year for the local economy.

Bill 1160 was submitted for legislative consideration by Sen. Aníbal José Torres and was referred to the Finance Commission, chaired by Senator José Nadal-Power late Friday.

The proposed measure’s purpose is to amend subsections Law 272-2003, known as the Room Tax Law, to extend the term of the allocation for the Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority and for other related purposes.

As it stands, the law establishes that 9 percent of the total tax collected will be assigned to the Tourism Company’s general fund, to cover the costs of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, now known as Meet Puerto Rico. The bill intends to specify that this funding will expire at the end of this fiscal year, or June 30.

The proposed amendment states that starting in Fiscal 2015, 9 percent of the total tax collected will be assigned to the Tourism Company’s general fund, which in turn will transfer no less than $4.5 million to the Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority, in monthly installments.

“There is no further reference of the amount the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau…will receive from now on or the organization’s role in this new scenario. This major change in the law implicitly eliminates Meet Puerto Rico with no guarantees of fund allocations for the near future,” the organization said in a letter mailed to all of its members Tuesday, warning of the proposed changes.

“Simply put, this bill is a direct effort to hinder our ability to operate and promote and sell Puerto Rico, but most importantly, it could create serious negative impact to our industry, obviously, meetings and conventions,” the letter signed by Meet Puerto Rico President Milton Segarra said.

PRHTA voices in
Upon learning of the bill’s existence and potential effects, the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association expressed concern about how the proposed change is being pushed in a “hasty way.”

“It raises suspicion that this bill is headed for approval without a single public hearing where proponents justify such action, where the industry can state its position, where the Convention District Authority can explain what, if any, are their credentials for promoting and marketing groups, and where the Tourism Co. can explain its opposition openly as it did in written testimony requested late on June 20. We are concernedover the lack of transparency and excessive haste to approve the measure,” said PRHTA Chairman Ismael Vega.

“Approving the bill would eliminate an entity that for more than 50 years has promoted the island in the competitive groups and conventions market,” Vega said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 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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