Looking to promote the enactment of healthy public policy that benefits the island’s tourism industry and achieves a positive multiplier effect, business leaders, employment generators, and local capital investors from several sectors of the tourism industry have come together to create the Puerto Rico Tourism Business Council.
Among its immediate priorities and in its commitment to strengthening the promotion of the destination, the Council advocates for adequate and competitive financing in the promotion of Puerto Rico of up to $125 million annually for the next four years to improve the island’s image so negatively affected by multiple events, including promotions, incentives for airlines, cruises, groups, and Invest Puerto Rico, among others, the group’s leaders said.
Its founders, Federico J. Sánchez-Ortiz, chief executive officer of Interlink; Federico Stubbe, Jr., chief executive officer of PRISA Group; and José M. “Peco” Suárez, president of International Hospitality Enterprises, said the Council brings together business leaders with native capital that create jobs, whose goal is “to create more jobs and double the impact of the tourism industry.”
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, a broad group of the sectors that make up the tourism industry have begun to work together to put a spotlight on the negative impact on its workforce, developing media campaigns and other efforts as a single voice in favor of its more than 80,000 employees, Council executives said.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Business Council is the result of this alliance, which has a multidisciplinary approach that aims to promote the development of strategies and high-impact public policy, to promote a prosperous environment to make tourism a priority in the island’s economic development.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Business Council is based on four pillars:
- Public awareness — Increase public awareness of the contribution and potential of the industry to Puerto Rico’s economy and job creation;
- Destination development — Create and promote policies, both with the public and private sectors, that promote and stimulate world-class tourism development with the goal of doubling the tourism sector’s contribution to the island’s Gross Domestic Product;
- Promotion of the destination — Advocate for and ensure competitive levels of financing and effective promotion of various tourism sectors through Discover Puerto Rico and other programs for the benefit of the destination; and,
- Destination management — Strengthen and continually improve the visitor’s economic ecosystem.
Sánchez Ortiz, who along with Stubbe Jr. is co-president of the Council, said, “our objective is to help drive the growth and unprecedented expansion of the tourism industry through proactive leadership and the advocacy of standards and pro-business and pro tourism initiatives, while respecting our environment.”
“Through public awareness we aspire to be that proactive voice that makes a difference and marks the first step towards strengthening our industry in the face of marked global competition,” said Suárez, vice president of the Council.
“It is imperative that a portion of the federal funds at our disposal are invested in a long-term economic development plan that uses tourism as a launch pad. We propose to legislate to create tourist improvement districts throughout the island, to improve infrastructure and beautify public areas,” said Stubbe Jr.
“The goal is to at least double tourism’s contribution to Puerto Rico’sm economic development and for this — together with the government — we’ll seek financing options that allow it. In fact, in the Council we have the support and commitment of the leaders of the three main banks of the island, a critical component to maximize the potential of the industry,” Stubbe Jr. Said.
In the area of destination management, Suárez stressed “the need to reinforce and continuously improve the ecosystem of the visitor’s economy, hand in hand with the Tourism Company, with an emphasis on the areas of security, air access and arrival experience; ground transportation, standards, and workforce development; health and sanitation; and cleaning and beautification of the island.”
The Council has an Executive Board made up of 12 owners or top tourism company executives, and an Advisory Board that includes representatives from several sectors of the industry, such as: the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association; Discover Puerto Rico; the Builders Association; the American Society of Travel Agents; Foundation for Puerto Rico; the Independent Vacation Rental Association; the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association; casinos; academia; banking; and former Tourism Co. executive directors, among others. The Council also has the services of the public relations specialist Nelly Cruz, who is the coordinator of the entity.
The group has presented its concrete proposals to the different gubernatorial candidates, who have embraced its ideas and committed to collaborate in their execution, group officials said.
“Our goal at the Council is one: to make tourism a priority in Puerto Rico’s economic development, in which the tourism industry is a generator of new, well-paid jobs with potential for growth and professional advancement,” said Stubbe. “In the end, we want the gross income of the average Puerto Rican to grow a minimum of 50% in the next decade.”
Executive Board members:
- Federico J. Sánchez Ortiz, Interlink, co-president
- Federico Stubbe, Jr., PRISA Group, co-president
- José M. Suárez, International Hospitality Enterprises, vice-president
- Anaymir Muñoz, MB Sports, director
- Joanne Ferguson Twiste, Destination PR Travel Services, director
- Jorge Hernández, Aerostar, director
- Jorge Jorge Flores, Toro Verde, director
- José Algarín, Empresas Santana, director
- Miguel Vega, HI Development, director
- Rafael Rovira, Grand Reserve Puerto Rico, director
- Rick Newman, Flagship Services Corporation, director
- Tomás Ramírez, Combate Beach Resort, director
- Nelly Cruz, Nelly Cruz & Associates, coordinator
Advisory Board members:
- Alfredo Martínez Álvarez, Jr., Asociación de Constructores de Puerto Rico
- Ángel Alverio, American Society of Travel Agents
- Aurelio Alemán, FirstBank
- Brad Dean, Discover Puerto Rico
- Clarisa Jiménez, Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association
- Eddie Ramírez, Puerto Rico Bed & Breakfast Association
- Eduardo Inclán, Bluhaus Capital
- Enrique “Kike” Cruz, Airline & Customer Satisfaction Consultant
- Fernando E. Lloveras San Miguel, Para la Naturaleza
- Gadiel Lebrón, Puerto Rico Restaurants Association
- Graciela Eleta, Foundation for Puerto Rico
- Gustavo Vélez, Inteligencia Económica
- Ignacio Álvarez, Banco Popular
- Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, former Tourism Co. executive director
- Ismael Vega, Casinos of Puerto Rico
- Jon Borschow, Foundation for Puerto Rico
- Jorge Pérez, ASM Global
- José B. Carrión III
- José R. Fernández, Oriental Bank
- Mario González Lafuente, former Tourism Co. executive director
- René Acosta, Association of Short Term and Independent Rentals
- Terestella González Denton, Universidad Ana G. Méndez