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European Tourism To Puerto Rico Posting Gains

Opening of Sol Melia to help, Convention Center promotion underway


March 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

As the post Sept. 11 travel fears of Europeans continue to abate, Puerto Rico Tourism Co. director for Europe Lisa Altieri is becoming more upbeat about prospects for consolidating recent gains in European tourism to the Island of Enchantment.

Puerto Rico Tourism Co. statistics show that about 36,000 Europeans visited the island during fiscal year 2000-2001, a 36% increase over the little more than 26,000 who visited during fiscal year 1999-2000. Though Altieri cautions that the effect of Sept. 11 will likely result in weaker growth during the current fiscal year, she says the Tourism Co. is busy implementing new strategies aimed at significantly boosting European tourism to the island.

"Since December 2001, we have two full-time representatives in England, who are focused on increasing our part in England´s well-developed incentive travel market," said Altieri, who is also in charge of Puerto Rico Convention Bureau (PRCB) operations in Europe. The new team of England representatives is also being tasked with helping Puerto Rico have a higher profile among tour operators in the United Kingdom.

Altieri said the relationship with leading tour operators in Spain, such as MundiColor, El Corte Ingles, and Iberia´s Viva Tours, is steadily growing stronger, and efforts with German tour operators are also being intensified.

But other developments on the horizon give Altieri even more confidence in the growth of Puerto Rico as a preferred destination for discriminating European travelers. "There´s no doubt that the opening of the Sol Melia Paradisus Hotel in Rio Grande in 2003 will represent a major boost for us," Altieri told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. She noted that the Sol Melia brand is one of the biggest and most prestigious, not only in Spain, but throughout Europe.

Altieri is also counting on the new world-class Puerto Rico Convention Center, slated to open in 2004, for major convention visitor growth. "The majority–some 65%--of the world´s international organizations have their headquarters in Europe, and the new Convention Center will make Puerto Rico open for business on a whole new scale," Prospective clients are already receiving the pitch. Altieri indicated that during the past year, both the Tourism Co. and the PRCB have benefited from their unified efforts in the region.

As far as the island´s Caribbean competitors, Altieri said Puerto Rico doesn´t pretend to compete on the cheap or mass tourism front. The island, Altieri said, is recognized as a select destination that´s essentially in another league in terms of the quality and range of vacation experiences offered visitors. "It´s not a mass destination, but a select destination where visitors consistently feel at home."

Currently, Altieri said the Tourism Co.´s European regional operation has five employees based in Madrid. Two PRCB employees also work in the Madrid office. Altieri also supervises two contract representatives in England, two in Germany and one in Paris.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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