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All Bodes Well For Peak Tourist Season

Despite tough times, 2004 low season had its ups; hoteliers forecast good occupancy rates for winter


November 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Soaring fuel prices, a storm that left Puerto Rico without power for nearly a week, and the uncertainty surrounding local elections didn’t discourage local tourism activity during the low season, and its figures could be the prelude to a brisk winter season.

According to the Tourism Co., occupancy rates between July 1 and Nov. 16 averaged 76%, reflecting an increase of 1.2% when compared with the same period in 2003.

"We believe the forthcoming winter season will be very beneficial for the local tourism industry. Hoteliers and the private sector are confident it will be a very favorable season," said Milton Segarra, the agency’s executive director.

Segarra said that throughout the year, there has been a steady increase in the number of booked rooms; it should only get better during peak season, which lasts from Dec. 15 till mid-April.

Segarra, who is also the secretary of economic development & commerce, attributes the healthy tourism industry to the marketing strategies the Tourism Co. has been carrying out for the past several years and to the moderate economic rebound on the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico’s principal market.

In fiscal year 2003, Puerto Rico received 4.4 million visitors who spent more than $2.7 billion, according to Planning Board figures. The World Tourism & Travel Council, which analyzes the overall demand and economic impact of the tourism industry, forecast that the sector would generate more than $9 billion in 2004.

Alain Tiphaine, president of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association (PRHTA), anticipates a strong peak season and said reservations are going at a nice pace. PRHTA has more than 500 members, including hotels and tourism-related businesses.

"All the indicators are basically pointing to a better season than last year, and we will be close to pre-9/11 occupancy levels," said Tiphaine, who said many hoteliers are seeing the same results.

Tiphaine, who also owns the three-star Villa Montaña Resort in Isabela, said occupancy rates went down in September and October because of Tropical Storm Jeanne. Occupancy in November, however, has been on the upswing. An unprecedented number of groups have booked rooms for January and February.

Meanwhile, Tiphaine has put his money where his mouth is. He is preparing to expand his property, and construction will likely start next year.

Juan Lopez, owner of Palmas de Lucia parador in Yabucoa and president of the Paradors Association, agrees the tourism industry is healthy. Most paradors have recouped business following Jeanne’s passage in September, he said.

Recent downpours have hurt business, said Lopez, but Palmas de Lucia as well as Posada por la Mar in Lajas, Bahia Salinas in Cabo Rojo, and other paradors are registering better occupancy levels nonetheless.

"Paradors depend heavily on locals and get most of their business on weekends; things are looking up. Palmas de Lucia is receiving many guests and will be nearly sold out Thanksgiving weekend," Lopez said.

Daily Occupancy Rates

Fiscal Years 2002-03 to 2004-05*

Fiscal 2002-03 / Fiscal 2003-04 / Fiscal 2004-05

Metro area: 75.6% / 79.6% / 81.8%

Other areas: 59.7% / 65.1% / 66.2%

Total: 70.6% / 74.8% / 76%

*Figures from July to Nov. 16

Source: Tourism Co.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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