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Tourism Co.’s New Business Plan Focuses On Quality Service

Turismo eres tu’ Acknowledges Island’s Hospitality Businesses Will Succeed Or Fail Depending On Quality Of Guest Service; Agency Will Continue With Financial Incentives, Advertising & Marketing Campaigns, Data Collection


September 18, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Delivering quality service is one of the major challenges to Puerto Rico’s hospitality industry.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. will attempt to meet that challenge with its business plan for fiscal year (FY) 2004, called "Turismo eres tu" (You Are Tourism), recently unveiled to local industry leaders at the Caribe Hilton. The plan acknowledges the island’s hospitality businesses will succeed or fail depending on the quality of guests’ service encounters.

"Tourism is our business," said Jose Suarez, executive director of the Tourism Co. "Only when we understand and accept that each of us plays a critical role in tourism will Puerto Rico’s economy perform at its best."

Planning & financial incentives programs

The Tourism Co. is responsible for certifying local hotels’ quality of service, physical structures, and health & hygienic conditions. It must also guarantee that hotels comply with all legal requirements.

It has two new tools to assess the 180 agency-endorsed hotels in an objective manner and find areas for improvement: Quality Control Inspection and On-Site Evaluation. The Tourism Co. has boosted the budget of the Tourism Quality program from $690,000 in FY 2003 to $950,000 in FY 2004.

"In order to strengthen our competitive position…Puerto Rico must develop and deliver consistently high standards of customer service," said Carlos Toro, deputy executive director of planning & financial incentives programs at the Tourism Co.

To that end, the government has introduced new financial incentives, including the Tourism Guarantee Fund (TGF) and an amendment to Law 143 of 2001, which provides 100% tax exemption on the fees earned by private banks in guarantees or letters of credit for hotel development projects. Today, the exemption includes the interest banks earn on loans for hotel construction & development.

The TGF is a deficiency guarantee fund to help small & midsize tourism-related businesses obtain private loans under $12 million. The Tourism Co.’s initial allotment of $1.5 million will enable the Economic Development Bank, in charge of outsourcing the fund’s operations, to guarantee up to $12 million in tourism investments.

Research & development and product development

For the first time, the Tourism Co. will collect feedback cards from departing visitors at Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla to create a demographic profile of visitors to the island’s western region.

The Tourism Co. will also provide a series of training seminars on the importance of tourism to university professors, tour guides, public school students, and taxi drivers. The agency is designing a curriculum for the new tourism vocational school, which should open by November, at the site of the former La Americana Hotel in Guanica.

The agency will carry on with SuperHost, a training program developed in British Columbia that emphasizes the importance of customer service in the hospitality industry; Puerto Rico Young at Heart, a program exposing cruise-ship passengers to the island’s culture through salsa and plena music at the Old San Juan port; and Puerto Rico Welcomes You, which consists of welcome and promotional signs.

Marketing & public relations

The East Coast of the U.S., in particular the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), is Puerto Rico’s top market. The Tourism Co., which has a $28 million advertising, marketing, and public relations budget, will protect that turf by continuing to air the "You’re Not Dreaming…You’re in Puerto Rico" campaign initiated in 2001.

It will also keep advertising in core travel magazines such as Conde Nast and second-tier magazines such as National Geographic Traveler.

The agency has launched infomercials in new markets to test how customers respond to the destination. The infomercials will continue airing in California and Florida, which are secondary markets for Puerto Rico, and will also be broadcast in Boston.

"For the first time in Florida, we will invest in outdoor media because there’s a large Hispanic population that really doesn’t know Puerto Rico," said Letty Rivero, deputy executive director of marketing at the Tourism Co.

Cooperative advertising will continue with travel wholesalers such as Go-Go Worldwide Vacations and American Airlines Vacations as well as with travel websites.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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