Bipartisan Group Submits pro-Tourism Legislation Package
SAN JUAN – A bipartisan group of legislators—consisting of the minority speaker for the New Progressive Party in the House, Jenniffer González, and Popular Democratic Party Reps. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz and Ángel Matos—presented a package of bills on Tuesday that intends to spur Puerto Rico’s tourism sector.
The five bills authored by the trio of legislators seek a better distribution of funds given to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), the commonwealth’s main promoter for tourism, and would establish requirements for the accountability of revenues and marketing strategies at the public corporation.
“Puerto Rico has a lot of room for growth in tourism,” said González. “Credit rating agencies have highlighted tourism as one of the economic sectors that would help our current fiscal situation. That is why we need to create a cohesive effort to go in the same direction with regards to tourism and at the same time guarantee transparency.”
Matos, who also chairs the House’s Tourism Committee, said the package also aims to propel a faster exchange of key information between the PRTC and the Legislature. “The bills present substantial changes in the obligations of the person in charge of the PRTC, making statistical data an important tool to better inform lawmakers about such an important sector of our economy.”
Meanwhile, Torres Cruz called tourism one of the undisputed pillars of the island’s economy. “These bills were discussed and agreed upon with various components of the tourism industry such as hotels, restaurants, airlines, excursion companies, car rental providers, cruiseship lines and suppliers, among others.”
House Bill 2797 would amend Act 272 of 2003 to determine a specific amount out of the funds that the PRTC receives for the sole purpose of promoting and marketing Puerto Rico as a tourism destination. This way, the funding allocation used for promotional purposes would not be subject to the ups and downs of administrative decisions.
While the original law that creates the PRTC grants the public corporation plenty of powers, the tasks related to its executive director were not clearly stated. HB 2796 seeks to fix that, establishing a defined set of responsibilities to maximize existing resources. Among the tasks listed in the bill is carrying out periodical studies about the behavior of the local tourism sector and formulating related legislation and regulations.
HB 2798 would establish an 11-member board of directors within the PRTC and a 17-member advisory council to the board. In this manner, different components of the tourism industry would have a say in the drafting of strategies to promote the island. Of note is that none of the board or advisory council members would receive compensation for their services.
Another bill, HB 2795, would require the PRTC to present reports each semester on the operational expenses related to games of chance, in an attempt to promote better transparency in the management of public funds. Lastly, HB 2794 would require the PRTC to submit quarterly reports on the marketing strategies it is employing to promote Puerto Rico.