Puerto Rico House approves DMO bill and excludes domestic tourism
SAN JUAN – In a 43-4 vote, Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives approved Monday Senate Bill 4, which if turned into law will create a destination marketing organization (DMO), handing the promotion of tourism in overseas markets over to the private sector.
The legislative body amended the bill so that the promotion of internal tourism remains in the hands of the government ‘s Tourism Co. (CTPR), a matter requested by several industry organizations on the island, said the president of the Tourism and Social Well-being Committee, Néstor Alonso.
The number of members of the DMO’s board was increased from 11 to 13 to give greater participation to the tourism entities. These two new members will be appointed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who will now name three members of a tourism-related area and a member of a nonprofit organization.
The rest of the members will be the secretary of Economic Development, the Tourism Co. director, the director of the Convention District Authority, two members selected by the legislative presidents, someone from the Hotel and Tourism Association, someone from the Conventions Bureau, someone from the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport’s public-private partnership, and a member of the Association of Hotels and Tourism.
Alonso hopes the Senate will concur with the amendments included in the executive branch’s bill. He said it is expected the measure increases the number of arriving tourists from 2.5 million to three million so that tourism represents more than 7.6% of gross domestic product (GDP). That is lower than the world average, 9.2% of GDP, and less than half of the average in the Caribbean, which reaches 17%.
Concern about use of public funds
The measure was opposed by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Reps. Manuel Natal, Luis Vega Ramos and Luis “Narmito” Ortiz, as well as Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Denis Márquez.
For Márquez, “it is worrying” that many of the Tourism Co.’s taxes, which amount to about $25 million, will be left in the hands of the private sector, with the Office of the Comptroller not being able to oversee their use. Nor would the electoral ban, the bidding law or the contracts law apply.
The PIP senator was also uneasy about what would happen to the employees Tourism would no longer need when transferring many of its functions to the DMO.
For his part, Natal claimed that his opposition is because “the privatization of Puerto Rico’s marketing does not seem to be a good business for Puerto Ricans,” as it benefits only certain private companies.
Private sector and executive branch in favor
On the other hand, the Secretary of Public Affairs and Public Policy, Ramón Rosario, as well as Tourism’s executive director, José Izquierdo, expressed satisfaction with the approval of the measure, included in the Plan for Puerto Rico. Both expressed in writing that the bill will boost economic development on the island.
In the same press release, the president of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association, Miguel Vega, was pleased with the amendments introduced to the bill and said he was ready to “develop tourism through strategies that respond to the reality and demands of the market and are not subject to political swings.”
Officials from both Meet Puerto Rico and the nonprofit Foundation for Puerto Rico also said they were satisfied with the legislation.