The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is ramping up efforts to increase cruise ship visitor traffic to the island this year, predicting that more than 1.2 million cruise ship passengers aboard 493 vessels will dock in Old San Juan in 2012.
The ambitious predictions rest on the outcome of several actions the government has taken to drum up cruise ship traffic, including enacting the Puerto Rico Cruise Ship Development Law, which expands the incentives offer available to cruise lines and the improvements underway at Dock 3 in Old San Juan, Tourism Company Executive Director Mario González Lafuente said during a news conference held Tuesday.
“We’ve implemented a rigorous strategic plan to uphold our relationships with cruise lines and promote Puerto Rico as the Caribbean’s most important port,” he said. “The plan includes improving air access to strengthen the ‘home port’ ship market, to achieve additional frequencies and new routes by markets with a demand for cruises, to improve the passenger experience and promote the destination through collaborative agreements with cruise lines.”
Other strategies include promoting Puerto Rico with information on board the ships, improve the destination’s product offerings, promote new tours, and complete the waterfront redevelopment project, among other initiatives, he said.
The cruise ship industry pumps $240 million into the Puerto Rico economy each year. Passengers alone, who spend an average of $70 per visit, represent some $64.7 million of that amount.
“From Jan. 1 to the present, we estimate that more than 80,000 passengers could have disembarked from more than 36 cruise ships docked at San Juan’s main ports,” González Lafuente said after welcoming some 2,800 passengers who has arrived on the Celebrity Eclipse earlier in the day.
“It is a great honor for us to welcome passengers aboard the Eclipse, one of the many ships that are including Puerto Rico in their schedule of visits this year,” González Lafuente said. “In November 2011, Puerto Rico welcomed the visit of the Eclipse, owned by Celebrity Cruises, for the first time. [Puerto Rico’s] inclusion in its schedule of visits through the Eastern Caribbean, significantly impacts the cruise market.”
The Old San Juan cruise ship dock zone has been hopping with activity this past week, with the arrival of 14 ocean liners from Jan. 13-20, some anchoring just in time for the San Sebastián Street festival.
During the first days of 2012 Puerto Rico has seen the arrival of some of the most impressive cruise ships, including the Millennium, Norwegian Gem, Carnival Liberty, Nieuw Amsterdam, the Navigator of the Seas and the Explorer of the Seas.