Members of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce told members of the Legislature Tuesday that it is “imperative that the government maintain an active and coherent public policy” when it comes to the tourism sector, which they believe is a “pillar” of economic development for the island.
At present, the sector contributes more than $4.3 billion to the economy and generates some 53,000 jobs, according to Tourism Company figures.
The trade group also told lawmakers that it is vital that any public policy in the making should direct all governmental entities to recognize tourism as a vital instrument capable of generating higher socio-economic growth and promoting the welfare of Puerto Ricans.
The suggestions came up during a public hearing for Senate Bills 1258 and 1257, both penned by Sen. Antonio Fas-Alzamora. The first proposes the creation of the Puerto Rico Tourism Regionalization Act, while the second measure amends the Porta del Sol Act, to clarify certain marketing issues for the brand name and the Porta del Sol tourist region.
“One of the strategies we have developed is regionalization. This effort seeks to create clusters of municipalities organized in tourist regions, to convert them into regional destinations within Puerto Rico,” said Tourism Company Executive Director Ingrid Rivera-Rocafort in written testimony.
She also noted that the agency she heads needs to have enough flexibility to create additional offices or merge existing ones depending on the needs of the regions created and taking into consideration their fiscal realities. She also said obligating the Tourism Company to include specific budgets to market, support and promote each region would negatively affect the quantity and quality of advertising the agency could buy annually.
She also asked lawmakers to amend the bills to redefine the towns to be included in each region. The Porta del Sol region would comprise the towns of Aguada, Aguadilla, Añasco, Cabo Rojo, Isabela, Hormigueros, Las Marías, Lajas, Maricao, Mayagüez, Moca, Rincón, Sabana Grande, San Germán, San Sebastián and Quebradillas. Porta Caribe would include the towns of Yauco, Guánica, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce, Juana Díaz, Villalba, Santa Isabel, Coamo, Salinas, Guayama, Arroyo and Patillas.
Meanwhile, Porta Atlántico would comprise the towns of Camuy, Hatillo, Arecibo, Barceloneta, Manatí, Vega Baja, Vega Alta, Dorado, Toa Alta and Toa Baja. Finally, the Porta Cordillera tourism region would include the towns of Lares, Adjuntas, Utuado, Jayuya, Ciales, Orocovis, Morovis, Corozal, Barranquitas, Naranjito, Comerío, Cidra, Aguas Buenas, Aibonito y Cayey. La Región Turística Porta Antillas comprenderá a Loíza, Canóvanas, Río Grande, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Naguabo, Humacao, Yabucoa, Las Piedras, San Lorenzo, Juncos, Gurabo, Caguas, Vieques, Culebra, Trujillo Alto and Maunabo.
The Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association and the Puerto Rico Planning Board favored both measures.