The resort’s “last-minute” Winter Blues package starts at $90 pp per night dbl, and includes breakfast daily, a $25 food and beverage credit, a 20 percent discount on massages and a certificate for a free night in the future for guests who book three or more nights.
And new hotels aren’t the only big news. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s executive director, Jaime Lopez, says that its paradores, or small country inns clustered in less-visited locales like the island’s western and southern coasts, have actually seen increases in visitors and in profits. Rates at these properties are typically very low—at Parador El Faro near Aguadilla on the west coast, rates start at $85 per room dbl—making them ideal accommodations for clients on a budget. They’re easy to find, thanks to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s dedicated website, gotoparadores.com, which lists paradores that meet its criteria for safe and comfortable accommodations, along with website and contact info. And though they’re small properties, most offer travel agent commission.
With so many hotels thriving in a time of cutbacks elsewhere, Gonzalez anticipates an increase in inquiries and attention paid to Puerto Rico. “[Clients will] say, ‘Wait—let me take a look at this.’”
what’s next And clients aren’t the only ones noticing. Puerto Rico’s air access has increased exponentially in the past year, Gonzalez says, naming AirTran, American Eagle, Insel Air, JetBlue, and Liat as lines that have added new routes or increased service to San Juan—an increase of 250 flights per week compared to 2008, he says. And they’re not stopping now. “Our goal is to increase air access, to become a hub for inter-Caribbean travel and for international and European travel,” Gonzalez says. The destination has initiated conversations with the TSA and U.S. State Department, he continues, in an attempt to reinstate the international in-transit lounge in San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, which was closed after the attacks of 9/11.
But even though Puerto Rico is enjoying success relative to its neighbors in the Caribbean, true sustainability in the long term hinges on cooperation throughout the region, says Lopez. “There have been disappointments in the past, but I believe that given what has happened in the last couple of years, the downturn of tourism activity in the region is a wake-up call for everyone, that we need to work together and position ourselves to the world as one region.” Lopez plans to work with tourism ministers throughout the islands to work on issues like airlift and multi-destination, “island-hopping” packages.