Puerto Rico Storms Ahead With Accelerated Hotel Development Plans

NEW YORK? Government and tourism officials from Puerto Rico met with the consumer and trade press here last month and, in the process, shed some light on the developmental progress of their commonwealth?s burgeoning hotel-plant. Newly named Executive Director for the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Jose Corujo revealed that much of his island?s new hotel development will be tied to the agency?s efforts to decentralize and diversify Puerto Rico?s tourism product. ?The course of hotel development in Puerto Rico is based on the current status of our industry and the five objectives we have set as guidelines; [these objectives being]tourism decentralization, product as well as market diversification, the creation of new air routes, and the quality of service provided to our visitor,? he said. Corujo said that with the government committed to a more active role as facilitator for private enterprise, hotel-sector investment should reap the rewards of a measurable upturn. ?While it?s certainly important to look at the dollar investment opportunities in Puerto Rico today, it?s even more important to look at the number of rooms at all levels that we need now and in the near future,? Corujo said. With his target being to bring some 2,000 additional rooms on-line or into the construction pipeline by the end of next year, Corujo said he intends to continue efforts to bring more of the world?s best-known hotel brands/ chains to the island. It?s not as if local tourism and hotel-guest fortunes have been bottoming out of late. On the contrary, Corujo pointed out that over the course of the last seven years, Puerto Rico?s in-bound tourism totals have grown by more than 25%, climbing from 3.8 million visitors received during fiscal year 1992 to 4.8 million visitors in fiscal year 1999. (Puerto Rico?s fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30.) The past seven years have also witnessed a 5.6% increase in Puerto Rico?s hotel and paradore occupancy rate, advancing from 66.3% in 1991 – 1992 to 71.9% in 1998 – 1999. Perhaps even more noteworthy is the fact that, after a plunge of 2.5% to 67.3% in 1997 – 1998, the lodging scene actually posted a dramatic rebound of 4.6%. Corujo reported that total hotel and paradore registrations for the months of May and June depict a considerably more substantial improvement. Figures for 1999 illustrate that the 284,236 registrants tallied equate to a 5% hike over the 271,016 up in 1998. Even more eye-catching is 1999?s 67% increase over the 170,165 registered in 1992. Looking at the bigger picture, Corujo reported that the past year saw 21% of Puerto Rico?s lodging facilities post occupancy levels in excess of 90%, while fully half the island?s properties racked up occupancy levels topping the 80% mark for the 12-month period. Accordingly, he said that the bevy of newly opened and/or renovated properties, as well as those currently under construction, should expect to do a brisk business? no matter whether they?re situated within the metropolitan areas or somewhat off the beaten path. Including those sites already under construction as well as those still largely on the drawing boards, the changing face of Puerto Rico?s lodging and hospitality industry is slated to feature the following: ? In Vieques, the Martineau Bay Resort is scheduled to be inaugurated in February 2000. To be operated by Rosewood Hotels, the project will have 216 rooms, a 10,000-square-foot spa, two private beaches, several restaurants, and an array of business and leisure attractions. ? In Culebra, the Costa Bonita Hotel and Villas will add 164 rooms. It is expected to be open by July 2001. ? Also in Culebra, the Hostal Bahia Mar will feature 16 rooms positioned on a 200-acre natural reserve. This property is set to open this month. ? In Rio Grande, the Paradisus Sol Melia is being set up as Puerto Rico?s first all-inclusive resort. The Spanish hotel chain Sol Melia will operate the facility. ? In the municipality of Fajardo, the Cayo Largo Int