The owners of the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino in Puerto Rico are so bullish on the future of tourism to Puerto Rico, they are planning to open a second Marriott property on the island.
Plans for the new-build, 190-room, $40 million hotel project were announced last week at an event sponsored by XLD Group, the Chinese company that owns the Marriott. At the event, Jun Zhang, the chairman of XLD Investments said he expects tourism to bounce back quickly after Hurricane Maria ravaged the American territory on September 20.
According to News is My Business, an information portal in Puerto Rico, the hotel's general manager José González-Espinosa confirmed that the new resort would be built on the site that currently houses the Marriott's tennis courts, and the property is expected to break ground in early 2019. He also said the hotel will be branded under one of Marriott's many flags in order to differentiate the identities of the two hotels.
The Marriott, which sustained damage during Hurricane Maria, remains open and operational.
"Our hotel right now is full, with rooms taken by relief personnel," said González-Espinosa.
Worst affected was the hotel's second tower, and its 123 cabana rooms, which sustained about $20 million in damages. The tower's renovated rooms are expected to re-open by April or May of next year.
With the announcement of the new hotel, González-Espinosa also called upon tourism officials to shift their inbound tourism marketing strategy.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) is currently promoting a campaign called "Rebuild Days," which encourages visitors and travelers to get involved in helping with infrastructure upgrades.
González-Espinosa said he would like to see that message start to shift to "Puerto Rico is open for business."
"We need to build a strategy with the government and the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association to bring back the leisure market," he said. "The Tourism Co.'s campaign is good for now, but we have to start changing the message."
The switch in messaging could be significant as more hotels start to re-open to the public. While some remain temporarily shuttered, such as the Ritz Carlton and the St. Regis Bahía Beach, others are nearing the end of renovations and hoping to open in time for the holiday season.
Among them is the iconic El San Juan Hotel, which has announced it will "partially reopen" on December 4, earlier than it anticipated, reports News is My Business.
This is "another major milestone on the Island's path to recovery and further evidence that Puerto Rico will be open for business by the holiday season," said executives from the property.
"Having an iconic property like El San Juan, with its tremendous history and stature on the Island, open its doors during its rebuild phase is proof that our tourism industry is quickly recovering and the pace of recovery is exceeding expectations. said José Izquierdo, the executive director of the PRTC.
The PRTC is hoping the opening of the property will help re-stabilize airline offerings into the holiday season after some airlines made the decision to abandon service to Puerto Rico.
Tourism execs also say that re-openings such as this one means returning visitors can expect to find a Puerto Rico that is better than ever.
In November, in an interview with TravelPulse, Jose Izquierdo, PRTC's executive director said that the tourism industry is looking at the aftermath of Maria as an "opportunity to reboot the whole tourism product."
Miguel Vega, chair of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Travel Association (PRHTA), agrees.
"Puerto Rico will come out on the other side with a stronger product, which must be showcased," he said.
Hoteliers are also hoping the upcoming Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association's Caribbean Travel Marketplace conference, scheduled for January 30 to February 1, will help get the message out.
The event, the Caribbean's largest tourism marketing program, will take place at the Puerto Rico Convention Center. As a show of confidence in Puerto Rico's tourism outlook, event officials made the decision to keep the conference in Puerto Rico, despite the challenges posed in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
But the event means Puerto Rico's tourism industry is facing some hard deadlines if they hope to showcase their product to international buyers interested in the Caribbean as they converge upon the island early next year.
For now, the Puerto Rico Convention Center is being used by federal relief workers as their home base of operation, but these workers are expected to vacate the facility by the middle of December, leaving more than a month for the facility to return to hosting international meetings and events.
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