Caribe Hilton celebrates grand reopening
Iconic Puerto Rico resort underwent $150 million restoration
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico’s AAA Four Diamond award-winning Caribe Hilton, a 652-room hotel featuring 65,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, is now fully back in business after an 18-month hiatus that included a 15-month renovation carried out with a $150 million investment from Park Hotels & Resorts, the property’s real estate investment trust.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, Caribe Hilton’s general manager, Pablo Torres, said Park Hotels & Resorts took the opportunity after Hurricane Maria damage forced the hotel’s closure to upgrade the property as it celebrates its 70th anniversary. The hotel had a soft opening May 15 with a reduced number of rooms.
“Not only have we taken this time to recover but we have meticulously elevated our service culture and resort facilities to redevelop a modern [offer],” Torres said.
Along with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Puerto Rico Tourism Co.’s (PRTC) executive director, Carla Campos, Torres described Caribe Hilton’s return as a “symbol” of Puerto Rico being “back in business.”
Campos, who highlighted that the event also coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Hilton brand, went into more detail and argued that the Caribe Hilton’s opening will have an effect in other tourism segments.
“It really means a lot to this community, but it not only means a lot for Puerto Rico, it means a lot for the tourism industry,” Campos said, adding, “We have been anxiously awaiting this reopening for very many months” because it is significant “for the re-stabilization” of flights, “for being able to bring those groups and conventions back,” and is a symbol “of what the destination is going through,” she said referring to the island’s recovery after the historic hurricane.
The need to increase air traffic and expand the meetings and conventions segment are among the key elements that Discover Puerto Rico, the islands destination marketing organization (DMO), has identified for growing the visitor’s economy.
The Caribe Hilton reopens as DMO numbers show higher hotel-room rates and growing competition from the independent rental market. During its latest industry presentation, research and analytics Director Alisha Valentine said average daily rates are higher compared with certain previous years while occupancy rates are lower.
The independent rental segment, which includes properties rented through services such as Airbnb and Homeaway, now comprises a 25 percent share of the island’s lodging market and 29 percent of its revenue. These numbers are the result of rapid growth, with the number of units available rising by 484 percent and the revenue generated by 670 percent when compared with 2015.
Valentine said it was not yet clear whether these changes represent a changing type of traveler to the island.
“What’s interesting here is the jump between November and December in independent rentals, and what that correlates to very closely is that divergence in the average daily rate between hotels and rental,” Valentine said during the recent DMO presentation.
“So you’ll see month over month what the average daily rate looks like and those begging to converge in June,” she added. “So once we start seeing how consumers are making those choices if they have the opportunity to pay the same kind of rate in June between a rental an a hotel, are they going to opt back into hotels? Is it the rate that is pushing them there or are we really seeing a new kind of visitor staying in these rooms?”
The ribbon-cutting Tuesday came five weeks after Caribe Hilton’s soft opening. The 17-acre hotel has now made all its renovated rooms available, while its fitness and spa building was completely rebuilt featuring oceanfront views from floor-to-ceiling glass windows, new fitness equipment and a full-service spa. Its tennis courts were remodeled in collaboration with Olympic gold medalist Mónica Puig. The resort features a beach protected by a breakwater and oceanfront swimming pools.
The scope of the work not only included renovating the guestrooms and public spaces, but also “upgrades to all building systems and building envelopes to better fortify the exterior against future storms,” according to a release.
The resort’s 11 food and beverage outlets were also renovated; however, Morton’s The Steakhouse location within the property remains closed but is expected to reopen by year’s end.