Bustamante to Head Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Committee

SAN JUAN – Miguel Vega, the chairman of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA), issued a statement Friday on the designation of Raúl Bustamante as the organization’s Owners and General Managers Committee president.

“It is an honor for the PRHTA to have at hand the extensive experience and leadership of Raúl Bustamante to guide such an important association committee,” Vega said. “Raúl’s trajectory and knowledge of the tourism industry will be a great benefit to drive Puerto Rico’s economic development through this committee,” he explained.

Raúl Bustamante

Raúl Bustamante

Bustamante, who is the general manager of the Condado Plaza Hilton Hotel, has been in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years, and was named Hotelier of the Year by the PRHTA in 1995 and 2008. He was a member of the PRHTA board from 1996 to 1998, as well as president of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau board from 2001 to 2005 and from 2011-2013. As a member of the latter board, he had an active role in developing the marketing strategies for the new convention center.

He also presided the Tourism Committee of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, and on several occasions served as president of the board. In addition, he has represented the governor of Puerto Rico and the mayor of San Juan on several boards and was vice president of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. board until April 2006.

In Friday’s announcement, Clarisa Jiménez, CEO of the PRHTA said, “We welcome Raúl as a member of the Committee and commit our full collaboration as necessary for the benefit of the hospitality industry. We thank him for his support of the PRHTA throughout these years. The Owners and General Managers Committee makes very important decisions for the private sector and decides on collaboration with the government about initiatives that drive the economy.”

Bustamante specializes in management, marketing, institutional change, negotiations, alliances and acquisitions, and leadership. He has certifications in these fields from several universities, such as the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania, the Harvard School of Business, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and the London School of Business.


Court Removes Tourism Campaign Slogan ‘La Isla Estrella’

SAN JUAN- The Court of First Instance delivered its judgment in a case in which the use of the slogan “La Isla Estrella” (“Star Island”) was being challenged, ruling against its use.

New Progressive Party Electoral Commissioner Jorge Dávila said the party prevailed in the case, saying the ruling confirmed the theme’s use advanced partisan political agendas with the use of public funds, “which is against the law.”

“It was confirmed there was intransigence by the executive director of the Tourism Co. and clearly manifest bias by the president of the State Elections Commission, Liza García, who, knowing our allegations were right, decided the ‘La Isla Estrella’ slogan could continue to be used,” Dávila said.

puerto-rico-la-isla-estrellaTo clarify such remarks, the director of Tourism Co.’s Legal Counsel Office, attorney Tatiana Alejandro Souffront, stated, “These statements do not reflect the reality of what happened. There was no determination on the merits by Hon. Judge Ángel Pagán Ocasio regarding political-party content alleged by the appellant in this case, instead the parties reached an agreement on the alleged controversy.”

Commissioner Dávila said, “There was never an attempt to stop any tourism campaign outside or inside the island. Basically our claim is the ‘La Isla Estrella’ motto could not be used because it was adopted by the Popular Democratic Party.

“In fact, the Hotel and Tourism Association agreed the campaign could continue without the slogan. The executive director of the Tourism Co. capriciously refused to remove it.”

Attorney Alejandro Souffront countered that Tourism has never used its campaign for partisan political purposes. “The decision to sign an agreement had more to do with judicial procedure than anything else. In short, what the agreement between the parties provides is that the campaign and its use of ‘Puerto Rico, La Isla Estrella’ will continue as such in all international markets and the U.S. [mainland], except that in local, Puerto Rico, promotions, the ‘La Isla Estrella’ will be eliminated,” she concluded.

Second International Tourism Expo Slated for San Juan, May 11-14

SAN JUAN – Now in its second year, the International Tourism Expo, touted by organizers as the premier Caribbean event for travel agents, tourism leaders, and group and destination-wedding planners, will once again be held in San Juan from May 11-14 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center.

ETI 2015“[ITE] 2016 is tailored to attract over 700 of the leading travel advisors and wholesalers from around the world who are actively selling Caribbean vacations, and connect them to a diverse cross-section of over 145 Caribbean destinations and suppliers,” organizers said in a statement.

Speakers include Marty St. George, executive vice president, Commercial & Planning at JetBlue; Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.; and Henry Harteveldt, founder/travel industry analyst, Atmosphere Research Group, among others.

During last year’s event, nearly 90 local and international exhibitors participated, as well as more than 700 travel agents from the U.S. mainland, Europe and Latin America. In all, about 2,300 people attended the event, generating an economic impact of nearly $1 million.

Hearings Continue on Bill Forcing Restaurants to Play Fair

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company, the Association of Restaurants of Puerto Rico, and the United Retailers Center testified on Thursday in the latest round of public hearings regarding Senate Bill 1557, which seeks to ban restaurants from the practice of charging service charges to consumers, in addition to the food fare and tips.


Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Luis Daniel Rivera Filomeno

The bill, known as “Law for Sales Receipt Transparency” proposes banning commercial establishments from billing for services that are uncorroborated.

“This proposed bill comes from claims by the consumers themselves who have expressed opposition to the practice by some restaurants of imposing a service charge of up to 17%, without specifying which additional services are included in that charge,” said Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Luis Daniel Rivera Filomeno, who heads the upper chamber’s Labor Relations, Consumer Affairs and Employment Creation Committee. “What’s more, the fact that the charge is mandatory, instead of optional, turns the consumer into a hostage of that establishment.”

The measure states that the Department of Consumers Affairs (DACO for its acronym in Spanish) would be the agency tasked with implementing the resulting law, including levying a fine of $5,000 for each infraction.

While in a recent public hearing the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, through its interim president Héctor Mayol, opposed the measure, DACO officials favored the bill.


Local Businesses Receive Sustainable Tourism Certifications

As part of the efforts by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (Tourism Co.) to promote the development of sustainable tourism on the island, CTPR Assistant Director Luis Daniel Muñiz Martínez presented special certifications on Tuesday to two local businesses.

PRTC sustainable tourismLa Jamaca Guest House, in the Parguera sector of the municipality of Lajas, received the Certification of Sustainable Tourism Installations, while La Hacienda Muñoz, located in San Lorenzo, was granted an Agritourism Certificate.

“We commend these businesses for their responsibility with sustainable development on the island,” said Muñiz Martínez, adding that achieving these certifications shows the businesses’ genuine commitment with their respective communities and the environment.

“We wish that the message of sustainable development in tourism spreads among the businesses that provide services to our visitors,” he added. “Tourists appreciate when a business takes their surroundings into consideration, which benefits everyone and helps in the conservation of the environment.”

Sustainable tourism, as defined by the World Tourism Organization, is any tourism activity that satisfies the needs of tourists and the host regions while protecting and improving future opportunities. It entails the management of all resources so that economic, social and aesthetic needs are met while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity, among others.

La Jamaca Guest house boasts 12 rooms in a rural and natural setting, while La Hacienda Muñoz, located in the San Lorenzo municipality, offers agricultural-themed tours, focusing on the history and production of coffee, and is located in some nine acres of land.

Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Receives World Tourism Organization Award

SAN JUAN – The executive director of the Tourism Co., Ingrid I. Rivera Rocafort, received Thursday an award given to Puerto Rico as one of four finalists in the category of Innovation, Public Policy and Governance at the 12th awards ceremony of the World Tourism Organization.

Puerto Rico competed against Indonesia, Colombia and Kenya in that category and is one of only three countries representing the Americas region and the only one representing the Caribbean countries among the finalists. The event was held within the 36th International Tourism Fair ( Fitur by its Spanish acronym) being held Jan. 20-24 in Madrid, Spain.

“We are honored to receive this award, which represents a great opportunity for Puerto Rico, to highlight our place as a destination before the world and place us in a great competitive position. We are focused in diversifying and solidifying Puerto Rico’s offerings and thus increase the number of visitors related to efforts in support of sustainable tourism,” Rivera Rocafort said.

Puerto Rico submitted its Green Certification Program, created by the Tourism Co.’s Sustainable Tourism Division. The program currently includes five green hotels, five ecotourism enterprises, and five agritourism projects.

The program’s features include that it is cost-free, and that the certified categories have their own criteria and standards guidelines developed locally with the assistance of state and federal agencies as well as academia. It also provides additional exposure and promotion to the certified projects. It also promotes social and environmental awareness and responsibility within the local tourism industry as well as creates new attractions, allowing for greater diversity in terms of tourism offerings.

By Caribbean Business

Puerto Rico Airlift Capacity Up 13%

Puerto Rico has an air seat capacity that is up 13%, according to January data from OAG, an air travel intelligence company, for an uptick of 1.2% when compared with the same period in 2015.

That places Puerto Rico as the third largest country market in the Caribbean in terms of monthly seats after the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Puerto Rico dropped from being the second largest market last year, a result of surging seat capacity to Cuba that has jumped 15%.

According to the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., most visitors to Puerto Rico come from the U.S. mainland, while the second largest group of visitors come from Europe. The breakdown of the European visitor market is as follows, according to the group: UK (18%), Spain (18%), Germany (16%), France (10%) and Italy (7%). Countries served by the Lufthansa Group make up 10% (Belgium – Brussels Airlines, Switzerland – SWISS, and Austrian – Austrian Airlines), none of which serve Puerto Rico directly, while the remainder of countries in Europe make up the final 21%.

Norwegian introduced twice-weekly service to San Juan from London Gatwick in November. The route is served by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, making Norwegian the first operator flying the aircraft to Puerto Rico.

In addition to its Gatwick service, Norwegian has also launched routes from its Copenhagen, Stockholm Arlanda and Oslo Gardermoen hubs to San Juan, allowing Denmark, Sweden and Norway to bring the total number of country markets served from Puerto Rico to 23.

Of the existing country markets, the U.S. remains No. 1 after seeing a rise in capacity of 8.7%, with the domestic market of Puerto Rico recording the biggest increase of 64%. Looking at decreases, the Dominican Republic market is down just under 18% when compared with last year.

JetBlue Airways remains the No. 1 airline operating in Puerto Rico, with 13 routes to the U.S. mainland, the biggest being the route between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

Of the top 12 carriers, American Airlines has seen the biggest increase in seat capacity (39%), helped by the merger with US Airways.

The carrier that has incurred the biggest natural growth is United Airlines, with the Star Alliance member recording an increase in seats of 32%. Of the top 12, Southwest Airlines and Cape Air are down 2.9% and 12%, respectively.

Spanish national carrier Iberia announced that beginning May 15, it would reintroduce service to San Juan from its Madrid hub starting with thrice-weekly service, with flights on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Over 120,000 Passengers Moved Through Port of San Juan in November

SAN JUAN – The number of cruise ship passengers recorded at the Old San Juan port surpassed 120,000 in November, according to data provided by the Tourism Co. to the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute (PRSI).

The 120,076 people were passengers on a total of 48 cruise ships. However, the number does not exceed the last fiscal year’s, when 148,217 passengers were recorded in November.

According to statistics offered by the PRSI, the movement of 87,106 passengers was registered in July. In August, it stood at 77,784, while in September the figure dropped to 63,995 but increased again in October to 87,160.

The number of cruise ships that called on the Port of San Juan in July was 21; for August, 21; September, 19; and October, 29.

The numbers are distant from the fiscal year 1998, when 82 cruise ship arrivals had been registered by December with 137,641 passengers in movement.