Newly-released figures show gains in bringing tourists to Puerto Rico. First quarter 2011 hotel occupancy rates show a four percent increase over 2010, and Puerto Rico tourism officials anticipate a three to four percent rise in total tourism visits this year, the Island’s first increase in five year.
Mario González Lafuente, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, attributes the lift in large part to PRTC’s new Just Think, Puerto Rico marketing campaign and efforts by tourism industry partners including hotels, airlines and travel agents to showcase the Island’s varied and unique offerings. The advertising campaign consists of print and television and launched in November 2010 at an event in New York City attended by González Lafuente and Puerto Rico’s lieutenant governor, Kenneth McClintock.
“This year we launched the campaign earlier than we had in ten years, using multiple channels to reach specific niche markets. As a result, we saw a strong and early push in sales and reservations,” said González Lafuente. “We are well on our way to accomplishing our growth expectations for the year, with a diversified offer and a variety of attractions.”
González Lafuente also credits a strong online platform that anchors the Just Think, Puerto Rico campaign. Visits to seepuertorico.com have increased by two-thirds (66 percent) over 2010 and PRTC’s Facebook page now boasts more than 40 thousand friends.
Following the global recession of 2009, Puerto Rico began an aggressive effort to form stronger relationships with travel partners to increase tourism to the Island. These endeavors are now yielding solid results. Air access to Puerto Rico has increased dramatically, with nine airlines currently providing 63 non-stop daily flights from 20 U.S. cities. British Airways recently began a new twice-weekly flight to the Island from London, and a new Puerto Rican charter, IDEO, began serving Spain in April.
Puerto Rico has also seen growth in cruise tourism to the Island since 2009. Last year, homeport visitors from cruise ships increased 34 percent. Puerto Rico is now served by 16 cruise lines and 43 ships, resulting in an average of 1.2 million visitors a year. Disney recently announced that its new ship, Fantasy, will be scheduling stops in Puerto Rico, and later this year Puerto Rico will host the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association convention.
New upscale resorts are also opening on the Island. During the past 18 months, the W Retreat & Spa in Vieques, the St. Regis Hotel in Rio Grande and the Sheraton at the Pedro Rosello González Convention Center in San Juan have begun welcoming guests, and the Vanderbilt in Condado and Ritz Carlton Reserve will open this year and next, respectively.
“This growth and these results – along with Travel & Leisure calling us the world’s most searched island destination in the world and the readers of Caribbean Travel + Life voting us the best Caribbean travel destination – show that the world is rediscovering what we already know: Puerto Rico does it better,” added González Lafuente.
Puerto Rico Tourism Company, www.seepuertorico.com