JAX FAX was in Puerto Rico for the annual CHTA Marketplace and it was clear that the island was happy to see us. Although most of the damage from the storm has long since been repaired, tourism is struggling to recover, and all the tourism industry workers we spoke to were very happy to see the 1,000 or so delegates on island for the conference. In all, there are over 230 meetings and events scheduled over the next 6 months, which will bring much needed economic relief to the struggling tourism infrastructure.
Puerto Rico tourism wanted to make this a memorable event for all delegates, if for no other reason than to show they were back in business. And succeed they did. The evening of the official opening ceremony was the most unique I have experienced in my 26 years of attending marketplace. Instead of rows of chairs and a somewhat business-like atmosphere, this year’s delgates were seated at a variety of tables, sofas and conversation pits. The usually long-winded speeches were shortened in favor of a night full of live entertainment, food stations and cocktails. Well done Puerto Rico!
Now in its 36th year, marketplace boasted 102 buyer companies from 18 markets as well as 228 supplier companies representing over 68,000 hotel rooms. In true OneCaribbean fashion, supplier companies from the most affected islands were granted complimentary or discounted registration for the show.
Puerto Rico Tourism Recovery
Officially, the island reopened for business on Dec.20, in time for the busy holiday season. Although, 30% of the island still does not have power due to the complicated routes the power lines take across this mountains, almost all of the power to the tourism areas has been restored. In fact, during my time in the Condado and Isla Verda areas of San Juan, I saw no indication of storm damage.
The cruise port in Old San Juan reopened on Oct.7, and since then, has received over 410K cruise passengers which will keep the industry on track for over 1,000,000 cruise passengers in 2018. Currently, there are 110 daily flights, totaling 391K seats. Another 81K are expected by July which will be on par with 2017 levels by early summer.
A total of 12,458 rooms are currently available, which represents 80% of inventory. The major resorts not yet reopened include: Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel and Hotel St. Regis at Bahia Beach Resort, which will all reopen October 1. The W Retreat & Spa Vieques will reopen Dec. 31, 2018, and the re-opening of the El Conquistador and Las Casitas Village, both Waldorf Astoria resorts, is yet to be determined. Additionally, there is currently over 1.9 billion of investment development in the pipeline, which will add 25% more room inventory in the next 4 years. Some of the new hotel developments under way include: JW Marriott, ALOFT San Juan Convention Center, ALOFT Ponce, Serafina Beach Hotel, Four Season Cayo Largo and O:LV Fifty Five.
Rounding out the tourism attractions that are open includes:13 golf courses,15 casinos, 4,000 restaurants and 120 attractions. One major attraction, The El Yunqe National Forest, received extensive damage and will not fully reopen until the end of 2018.