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High Season Ends With Drop In Occupancy…Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Promoting Health Tourism


April 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

High Season Ends With Drop In Occupancy

Puerto Rico Tourism Co. reports show decrease during season


Puerto Rico’s high tourism season has ended with a moderate drop in hotel occupancy. Disappointing numbers indicate the current situation needs to improve. If Puerto Rico wants to continue being the shining star of the Caribbean, it had better get to work soon. Not long ago, promotions with slogans such as "Puerto Rico Does it Better" made headlines. Promotional campaigns have vanished, and hotel construction faces major regulatory measures and opposition from environmentalist groups. Worst yet, neighboring islands such as the Dominican Republic, with almost 60,000 hotel rooms, are competing aggressively with Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s high tourism season began Dec. 15, 2004, and ended April 15. Puerto Rico Tourism Co. reported that during the high season, hotel occupancy remained at an average 79%. Although considered a high number, it still represents a 3.6% decline compared with the previous high season.

The Tourism Co. considered possible factors that contributed to the decreased occupancy rates, among them the fact that February 2004 had one extra day and also the increased competition among Caribbean region entities offering similar tourist attractions. The report also adds that reductions are expected as long as hotel room supply fails to meet the demand.

Yet, the study shows the average daily rate for hotels during the 2004-2005 season was $186.33, an increase of $19 or 11.4%, compared with the previous year.

"Historically, the high season ends after Holy Week. This year, Holy Week was in late March as opposed to last year when it was in April," Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association President Alain Tiphaine commented on the general occupancy reduction.

Tiphaine views the reduction, however, as a far more complex situation. He points out that Puerto Rico has always been known as a difficult market in terms of obtaining governmental permits.

In recent years, the situation has worsened. Puerto Rico has become known not only for its beautiful beaches, but also for the difficulties relating to permits, the excessive regulatory measures, and the paralysis in the process. Also, these have become intolerably slow to obtain. "Government bureaucracy makes it almost impossible for hotel investors to come to Puerto Rico," said Tiphaine.

"It is simply too problematic. We have become known for our inability to get things done. Investors don’t feel comfortable knowing that even after complying with permits and undergoing the rigorous and incredibly slow process of obtaining all the necessary documents, any given group can paralyze the project," Tiphaine added. "Situations such as the one the Marriott Courtyard and Hyatt are encountering have only served to push away hotel investors. The reason why investors are choosing the Dominican Republic over Puerto Rico is very simple. Puerto Rico has become too problematic," he maintained. "The massive governmental bureaucracy is doing harm. Investors are not only taking their money elsewhere, but job opportunities as well," he concluded.

Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Promoting Health Tourism

New campaign promotes P.R. as destination for visitors seeking medical services


April 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Sandy beaches, friendly islanders, and beautiful Old San Juan are main attractions that come to mind when thinking about Puerto Rico’s tourism. Health and medical services are now also part of the deal. Health tourism, as it has been called in countries such as Brazil and Venezuela, is another source of tourism investment the local government is now aiming to attract.

In an effort to attract this new tourism segment, this month Puerto Rico Tourism Co. will launch a health tourism print and radio campaign in both the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and British Virgin Islands (BVI). The campaign will promote Puerto Rico as a desirable destination for people in the Caribbean needing advanced medical services and healthcare not available to them on their own islands.

"In April, we will launch the health tourism campaign in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, including St. John and Tortola. We want people from these islands who choose to go to the U.S. [mainland] in search of medical treatment to come to Puerto Rico instead. To date, we receive 60% of these patients, and our goal is to increase that amount to 90%," Puerto Rico Tourism Executive Director Terestella González Denton said.

The campaign titled "Committed to the Future of Medical Technology," promotes Puerto Rico as a health destination with more than 700 English-speaking U.S. board-certified physicians, several top-notch hospitals and other healthcare facilities with trained nursing staff and technicians, and advanced diagnostic equipment.

The campaign will also highlight medical services such as pediatrics, plastic surgery, nuclear medicine, obstetrics, psychiatric care, and open-heart and other cardiovascular surgeries; plus package deals, including airfare and accommodations for health tourists considering Puerto Rico.

The total investment for this venture is $26,000, of which Puerto Rico Tourism Co. will contribute $10,000. The rest of the capital will come from the private sector, González Denton said. The San Juan Beach Hotel contributed $2,500, SkyMed contributed an equal amount, and Pavía Health contributed $11,197. "The San Juan Beach Hotel and American Airlines have joined the initiative with discount airfares and hotel package deals, among other benefits," González Denton added.

However, one source familiar with the USVI and BVI said most islanders recognize Puerto Rico has good healthcare, but some of those who can afford it prefer to travel to Miami for their health needs because they speak English. "The situation is basically the language barrier; below the physician level, islanders have a hard time communicating because they [in Puerto Rico] aren’t that fluent in English; and if they aren’t familiar with the islanders’ accent it is even worse," said the source, who requested to remain anonymous. "Many nurses, technicians, and other staffers who are fairly fluent in English don’t remain very long in Puerto Rico because they are either hired by or decide to leave for better opportunities in U.S. mainland healthcare institutions," the source added.

An estimated 25% of all tourists who choose Puerto Rico as their vacation destination come from Latin America and the Caribbean, the latter largely from both the USVI and BVI, according to Puerto Rico Tourism Co. data. In fiscal 2004, Puerto Rico received 48,585 registered tourists from the Caribbean market, most come to Puerto Rico for medical treatment or shopping.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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