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Editorial & Column


Tourism Rebound


October 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Finally! As we wrap up a long, hot summer of acrimonious political debate and depressing reports of a bad economy both here and on the mainland, there’s finally some positive business news on the horizon.

Local hoteliers report they are gearing up for the best winter tourism season in the past three years. Not only are they expecting greater numbers of visitors, but they are projecting a marked improvement in their bottom line. Saggy demand in the past two years had forced many of them to keep rates so low they could barely make a profit.

Major U.S. airlines are increasing service to the Caribbean for the high tourism season, with American Airlines, Puerto Rico’s dominant carrier, boosting service to the island from 42 daily flights to 51, including a nonstop flight from San Juan to Los Angeles.

Also on the rebound is business travel, including the meetings and convention business that has been so affected in the past two years as a result of both a bad economy and post-9/11 travel jitters. Let’s not forget that business travel represents approximately 30% of all visitor arrivals in Puerto Rico.

We won’t suggest that it will be the cure to our current economic woes, but news of a successful and profitable winter tourism season is welcome news indeed. For one thing, it should help to jump-start our local economic recovery.

Also, it provides another indication that the mainland economy, although by small steps, is finally turning the corner. The stock market seems to be rebounding, corporate spending seems to be increasing, and the financial health of the airlines seems to have stabilized. And as the stateside economy improves, so will our local economy.

Predictions of a successful high tourism season couldn’t come at a better time. According to the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., seven properties should open by the end of 2003, representing an investment of $206.5 million and generating 803 jobs during construction and 772 jobs once operational.

The nicest pearl in that string of openings will be the debut of Puerto Rico’s first all-inclusive resort, the $100 million, 486-room Paradisus Puerto Rico Beach & Golf Resort at Coco Beach in Rio Grande, also known as Sol Melia, scheduled to open on Dec. 15.

Construction on another five projects is under way or about to begin.

Although these upcoming openings and hotel projects under construction had been earlier reported by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS, we take heart in what appears to be a rekindling of tourism and hotel development activity after three long years of stagnation, particularly the two years following Sept. 11, 2001.

Just last week at the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association convention, former Tourism Co. chief and Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra reassured local industry executives that tourism continues to be a vital sector of the local economy. "Our numbers are promising, and we have seen strengthening in all indicators of tourism activity in the past fiscal year," Segarra said.

All of it is good news. After a decade of making great strides in developing our local tourism industry, it would be a pity to slide backward. Now that we seem to have overcome the economic downturn of the past three years, let’s pull ourselves together to take Puerto Rico’s tourism industry to much greater heights.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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