New and renovated hotels are opening and the high-tech convention center is celebrating its fifth anniversary.
That’s the message from Ana Maria Viscasillas, president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Convention and Tourism Bureau. “We’ve been through one of the worst economic maelstroms in history,” she said in a recent interview. “But I often say that with challenge comes opportunity, and I truly believe that as the economy continues to improve, we will be stronger for the storm we’ve weathered.”
There are nearly $2.1 billion in development and $350 million in renovation and expansion projects under way or just being completed, including the 156-room W Retreat & Spa–Vieques Island; the five-star Bahía Beach, St. Regis Resort, slated to open in November with a Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course and a Jean Georges restaurant; the $172 million, 148-room Regent Puerto Rico Beach Resort & Spa; the JW Marriott Hotel & Resort at Coco Beach, featuring 197 guest rooms and a 174-room condo-hotel; the Mandarin Oriental, which is developing a 142-room luxury hotel property complete with a signature spa; and the 503-room Sheraton Puerto Rico Convention Center Hotel & Casino, which opened in November 2009 and serves as anchor hotel to the Puerto Rico Convention Center.
The 580,000-square-foot convention center, meanwhile, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Completion of the surrounding District in 2012 will provide a dynamic center of office space, retail operations, restaurants, entertainment, and additional hotels, including the 300-room Marriott Courtyard Convention District Hotel, a 252-room Aloft property from Starwood, plus an expected 500-room property, and a 200- to 250-room hotel.
Just outside of the Convention Center District, the Vistas de San Juan hotel project will bring a 48-room corporate hotel to the former Clarion property, along with 197 condo-hotel rooms. A second phase includes a two-tower, 480-room property with more than 300,000 square feet of commercial space. Also just outside of the Convention Center District is the newly rebuilt 184-room Doubletree by Hilton San Juan (formerly the Pierre Hotel), featuring four meeting rooms, a business center, wireless Internet, and other top amenities to cater to the business traveler. In the Condado area, the re-launch of the 570-room Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza followed a $70 million redesign that included refurbishment of all rooms and 40,000 square feet of meeting space. Nearby, development continues at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, which is scheduled to open in November 2010 featuring 305 guest rooms and 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
Last year, in reaction to the “AIG effect,” Puerto Rico launched its “Not a Boondoggle” promotional campaign. “We want to demonstrate to planners that the island’s services, amenities, and business infrastructure make us a serious meeting destination,” says Viscasillas. “The campaign also highlights the attributes that make delegates excited about working in a vibrant, sophisticated meeting destination.”
American Airlines has added daily flights to Puerto Rico from Boston, Chicago, and Washington/Dulles recently, in addition to a new weekly flight from Los Angeles. Passports are not required for U.S. citizens to enter Puerto Rico, as the island is a U.S. territory.