Puerto Rico plans European expansion

The Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), Terestella González Denton, along with the Secretary of the Department of Economic and Commercial Development, Ricardo Rivera Cardona, recently travelled to Europe to launch an aggressive strategic plan aimed at further developing Puerto Rico’s presence in Europe.Their visit initiated an agenda of meetings and presentations by PRTC representatives that included visits to six cities and four countries with very high potential for tourism and economic development in Puerto Rico.

“The development of the tourism industry is intricately linked to the economic progress that our people enjoy. In connection with the economic policies designated by our Governor, PRTC is working toward short- and long-term goals defined by our Strategic Tourism Plan to enhance Puerto Rico’s tourism offering, providing substantial economic impact to the Island, said González Denton.  “One of our priorities is strengthening the Island’s presence in Europe, a region which has the potential to increase visitors to Puerto Rico, and in turn economic growth to the Island.”

PRTC meetings were held in London, Madrid, Naples, Rome, Genoa and Frankfurt with airlines, cruise lines, wholesalers and travel agents to grow relationships and establish partnerships between Puerto Rico and the European tourism industry to increase the number of European visitors and their length of stay on the Island.  A key objective for Puerto Rico was to enhance air access and introduce direct flights from diverse European destinations, making Puerto Rico a more attractive vacation and business destination for Europeans.  PRTC met with British Airways, Princess Cruises, Virgin Holidays, Delta Airlines, Iberia, MSC Cruises, Top Cruises and several wholesalers and travel agents, among others.

The Secretary of Economic and Commercial Development, Ricardo Rivera Cardona, emphasised that Puerto Rico has a lot to offer to the European investor.  His meetings with high governmental dignitaries, Economic Ministers and multi-national corporations were aimed at exploring not only investment in the tourism sector, but also in the development of European companies in Puerto Rico, including biotechnology and applied science firms, as well as other agencies and companies that are in line with the public policy of the current administration.
“Our focus is to increase the number of European tourists that visit us by improving air access,” said Rivera Cardona. “The greater the availability of direct flights to Puerto Rico, the greater the number of European tourists that will be willing to visit us with their families, be it for vacation or to conduct business.”

González Denton explained that at the beginning of the current term, there existed a certain distance between the European and Puerto Rican markets. Consequently, PRTC has begun to implement a number of strategies to amplify the presence of the Island in this market by actively participating in tourism trade shows, investment forums and meetings with industry leaders to better understand their needs and to promote Puerto Rico’s extensive tourism offering.


“Following several negotiations with key tourism industry leaders and an active presence, PRTC is back in Europe with a compelling offer and a commitment to work together to grow our European visitor numbers and investments in our local economy,” affirmed González Denton. “The European market has the potential to increase our visitor numbers, especially during the low season because this market generally prefers vacations that are five days or longer. Additionally, Puerto Rico offers an excellent infrastructure, culture, diversified attractions, events and lodging that are sure to be very attractive to the European visitor.”

PRTC held a successful meeting with its long-term partner, Iberia, who reaffirmed its commitment to work together with PRTC to develop additional traffic on its San Juan route. The plan includes trying to attract European tourists to experience the Caribbean through multidestination packages which would include a connection in San Juan as part of the roundtrip ticket.

“Iberia’s strategy is centered on the development of our American network from our hub in Madrid.  Puerto Rico is one of our priority destinations, and with this objective in mind, we will work together with Puerto Rico to help increase passenger loads to San Juan and promote the Island as a preferred tourist destination for our Spanish and European clients,” said Antonio Pimentel Casas, Deputy Director of Air Access Policy for Iberia Airlines (Subdirector de Asunto Aeropoliticos). 

PRTC also met with MSC Cruises in Naples where they discussed the challenges facing European tourists in Puerto Rico. In addition, they discussed increasing the number of visits to the Port of San Juan and the variety of day and night excursions that could be offered by local operators to MSC so that passengers would have the opportunity to explore Puerto Rico.  PRTC also offered to increase it support in MSC’s marketing and sales of cruises to the Island.

During meetings with tour operators in Italy, PRTC committed to increasing its promotional offers and to developing a strategic marketing and sales campaign that will complement the advertising campaign launching in fiscal year 2007-08 in the Italian market. 

Currently, Europe accounts for the fourth largest share of visitors to Puerto Rico, with a 2% share or 170,900 visitors per year. The European destinations with the greatest number of visitors to Puerto Rico are: Spain with 24.9%, UK with 7.6%, Germany with 6% and Italy and France with 4% of total European visitors. The United States has the largest share of visitors to Puerto Rico, accounting for 80% or 6.2 million visitors, followed by the Caribbean with 15% or one million visitors. The Central and South American markets account for 3% of annual visitors or 249,000 people.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), founded in 1970, is a public corporation responsible for stimulating, promoting and regulating the development of the tourism industry.  It markets Puerto Rico as a tourism destination through advertising, public relations and promotional activities; promotes tourism among local residents; provides visitor orientation and technical assistance to investors; evaluates tourism facilities and establishes standards of quality; and regulates and oversees gaming operations.  PRTC has offices and representatives in the U.S. mainland, Canada, Europe and Latin America.