US Commerce Secretary John Bryson today appointed Mario González-Lafuente, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) of the US Department of Commerce, as part of a strategy to promote the United States.
The announcement of González-Lafuente’s participation as one of the 32 members of the TTAB was made during a visit by President Obama and Commerce Secretary Bryson to Orlando, Florida, today and is the latest in a series of “We Can’t Wait” actions that President Obama and his administration have undertaken to aid job creation through executive action.
“President Obama presented a robust strategy to promote the US as a tourist destination,” said González-Lafuente, “My contribution will primarily focus on helping the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board develop an innovative and integrated marketing program that effectively utilizes social media, sponsorships, and branded entertainment.”
As part of today’s swearing-in ceremony and inaugural meeting of the TTAB, González-Lafuente will present his thoughts to Secretary Bryson and fellow Board members on the issues he feels most affect the travel and tourism industry. For González-Lafuente, these are as follows:
Broaden the current Visa Waiver Program, to include those countries that have historically provided large numbers of visitors to the United States. This is particularly important for emerging economies such as those of Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico, for example.
Improve efficiencies at US consular offices to reduce the backlog of requests for tourist visas. Support in-transit programs for airports that have been negatively affected by the changes that resulted from 9/11.
This would result in increased access to different markets in the US for international airlines, support US Open Skies agreements efforts, and increase air traffic in markets that have been affected by post-9/11 changes. It would also support destinations that are currently only served through the major air hubs allowing, for example, for a market such as Puerto Rico to become a strategic connecting hub for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Increase awareness of the financial benefits to hotel owners and developers by implementing green tourism initiatives. Puerto Rico has developed guidelines for green hotels, for example, and green tourism has been growing on the island with the development of eco-friendly and eco-related attractions.
“This Board represents the eyes and ears of our nation’s travel and tourism industry, and I am committed to working with each of the esteemed members to bring more visitors to the United States,” Bryson said, “I appreciate the Board members’ dedication to our economic recovery and look forward to working with González-Lafuente to put ideas into action to bolster job creation in this critical economic sector.”
The TTAB serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States. Members represent companies and organizations in the travel and tourism industry from a broad range of products and services, company sizes, and geographic locations. The Board advises the Secretary on government policies and programs that affect the US travel and tourism industry, offers counsel on current and emerging issues, and provides a forum for discussing and proposing solutions to industry-related problems.
“Congratulations to Mario for this designation, which honors his vast experience and knowledge of the tourism industry. Likewise, this appointment represents the federal government´s acknowledgment of the great advance Puerto Rico has made in positioning the island as one of the most important tourism destinations in the hemisphere. Through Mario, we wish to continue to contribute to the development of the tourism sector in the United States, by developing strategies and participating directly in the economic recovery of the nation,” said the Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis G. Fortuño.
PRTC’s Executive Director has dedicated most of his professional life to the travel and tourism industry, including more than a decade as part of PRTC. González-Lafuente has held various positions within the organization in areas such as marketing, public relations, and promotion. He was directly involved in developing the organization’s strategic marketing plans, maximizing Puerto Rico’s exposure in the US, and developing policy for the cruise ship industry. His knowledge of the inner workings of PRTC, and the industry as a whole, has provided his tenure as Executive Director with the vision that gives Puerto Rico a successful platform in the travel industry.
As Executive Director, González-Lafuente is at the helm of a public corporation with over 500 employees, and a budget of US$100 million. He has a close working relationship with the tourism industry in Puerto Rico and abroad, where he represents the island in organizations such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association.
His efforts are representative of the government of Puerto Rico’s vision of developing legislation that promotes the tourism industry, the development of new hotel properties, the regulation of the gaming industry, and the development of marketing strategies geared towards placing Puerto Rico as the destination of choice in the Caribbean for the discerning traveler.
Prior to joining PRTC, González-Lafuente was part of the Metrovision Economic Development Partnership, where he worked to promote New Orleans and the River Region as an international business center. He also served on the Orleans Private Industry Council, where he worked on implementing federal employment and training programs for economically-disadvantaged individuals.
“I’m looking forward to lending my expertise to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board,” said González-Lafuente, “Travel is one of the most important sectors in Puerto Rico, so I understand well the need to implement a vibrant campaign to encourage travelers from all over the world to visit this culturally and experientially-rich country.”