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Pesquera Asks For $12.7 Million Increase In The Tourism Co.'s Budget

Outlines strategic goals for 2001-2004; criticizes past administration tourism promotion as ineffectual


May 10, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Executive Director Jorge Pesquera requested before House of Representatives Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo that the agency’s consolidated budget be increased by $12.7 million to $102.5 million for fiscal year (FY) 2002. The FY 2001 budget was $89.8 million.

The recommended budget includes a special assignment of $3.3 million, which was determined by an interagency agreement between the Tourism Co. and the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, to be given as incentives to the cruise ship industry.

Meanwhile, Pesquera was busy reconciling his petition for a larger budget last week before several local representatives, with his boss, Secretary of the Department of Economic and Commerce Development Ramon Cantero Frau. Frau’s earlier statements at public hearings regarding his agency’s budget report, that one of the biggest mistakes of the Rossello administration was putting all its eggs in the tourism basket.

"We [Puerto Rico] can be more effective with our tourism advertising campaign," Pesquera said. "Puerto Rico is not only a sun, sand, and beach or just a leisure market destination. It also has to cater to corporate individuals, as well as groups, and conventions."

The Tourism Co. is requesting that its marketing and promotions budget be boosted from $47.6 million in FY 2001 to $52 million in FY 2002.

"The investment for promotions and public relations in the past has been a significant number, but not effective," Pesquera said. "I am looking to develop effective programs. We have the opportunity to refocus the past initiatives."

New Progressive Party Sen. Antonio Silva Delgado asked Pesquera if the problem with the former tourism advertising campaign featuring pop singer Ricky Martin fell on the creativity of advertising agency Marti, Flores, Prieto & Wachtel (MFP&W).

"I am not satisfied with the way MFP&W executed the promotion because it was not effective for Puerto Rico as a tourism destination, if we base my judgment on the island’s occupancy rates," Pesquera said.

The Tourism Co. has also requested that $15 million–of which $10 million will be used to demolish the former San Juan Convention Center and build an urban Plaza between the Condado Beach Resort and La Concha Hotel–be allocated to the agency’s Public Improvement Fund. The remaining $5 million will be used for urban art development.

Strategic goals mentioned by the Tourism Co. for fiscal years 2001-2004 include transforming Puerto Rico into a world-class tourism destination, to add 4,000 hotel rooms to the island inventory, open the new Convention Center in Isla Grande as well as its anchor hotel by the summer of 2004, coordinate the development of the Americas World Trade District, formulate new mechanisms for development, establish regional plans of sustainable development, and promote Public Policy for measuring and analyzing the tourism industry.

Pesquera pointed out that the World Tourism Organization (WTO) characterized 2000 as a record-breaking year for the tourism industry. However, he alleges that the tourism industry in Puerto Rico has grown at a moderate rate in the last few years.

According to WTO statistics, the tourism industry grew 7.4% in 2000 and it is projected that there will be a 4.1% growth in 2001, due to the economic slowdown.

In return, Puerto Rico has grown 2.3% with 3.09 million visitors in 2000 compared to the Dominican Republic that has a 12.4% increase with 2.97 million visitors, Cuba with an 8.9% increase and 1.7 million visitors, as well as the U.S. that reported an 8.7% increase with 52.7 million visitors.

Furthermore, Pesquera says he has identified a series of situations in the Tourism Co. that require immediate correction, such as a lack of data to assist in decision making, too many employees, slow development of new hotels, a lack of control in financial contracts, high political influences, a lack of integrated strategic and effective marketing and promotions program, and a lack of effective strategy in the development and quality of the tourism product.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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