Destination Spotlight: Puerto Rico

Caribbean Discovery
Mar 01, 2005
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Ana Maria Viscasillas, CEO Puerto Rico Convention Bureau
It was barely a week before my October 2004 wedding when we learned that Hurricane Jeanne had washed away the small cay off the shore of the Bahamian island of Abaco that was to be our honeymoon hideaway.

The sun soon shone again, though. "Why not Puerto Rico?" asked the publisher of our sister publication Premier Hotels & Resorts. "Why not Puerto Rico?" asked my editor, quickly grasping the idea that a week away from the office needn't be a week away from work. A few phone calls and e-mails later, and my groom and I were headed South with a new mission: romance, sun, and an update on the state of the meeting industry on Pharma Island.

Under Construction
If somehow slipped your mind how important the industry is to Puerto Rico, you'd be reminded almost instantly. A giant corporate ad for Wyeth loomed on the airport terminal wall as soon as we passed the gate. When we pulled out of the airport in our rental car, we saw billboards championing pharma's role in the local economy, DTC ads promoting pharmacy products, and within minutes, Wyeth's manufacturing facility in Carolina. Even the long driveway to our hotel, the Sol Meliá Paradisus Resort in Rio Grande, was flanked by colorful banners emblazoned with Pfizer brands from Caduet to Zoloft, and everything in between. (Disclosure: The resort provided us a discounted rate for our stay.) In the lobby, a sign directing Puerto Rican managed care company medical directors to various meeting rooms featured more familiar names: Schering-Plough, Eli Lilly, Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and more. It was as clear as it was surprising—we were smack dab in the midst of a major regional pharma-sponsored medical meeting at a high-end, all-inclusive resort and spa property. That seemed impossible. All we know is that these types of meetings are an anachronism, all but banned by PhRMA Code and AdvaMed guidelines. What I learned from Mildred Hernandez, assistant sales and marketing director for the Paradisus, was that those restrictions aren't necessarily being applied to doctors hailing from places outside the United States, even though meetings might be sponsored by American companies. And that realization was only the first of many more that changed what I know about Puerto Rico: It's not only a vital manufacturing hub, but it's a destination for both corporate and physician meetings and incentive travel as well. (See "Rainforest Teambuilding,".)

Birth of a Destination There's no doubt that pharma companies will be spending a lot more time and money in Puerto Rico, thanks to the brand new, state-of-the-art, $415-million convention center being built right now near San Juan. The Puerto Rico Convention Center and surrounding District is expected to be completed this fall. (See "Under Construction.")

Bartolome gamundi, SVP Electro-Biology
Ana Maria Viscasillas, CEO of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau (PRCB), the official sales and marketing agent for the project, says they've already booked dozens of events and a quarter of them are medical- or healthcare-related. So far, the Latin American Congress of Pediatricians' 15th Congress will gather physicians from the region, and also from Italy, Spain, and Portugal, in 2009. The Association of Molecular Pathology will hold its meetings there in 2008 and 2010. Reed Exhibitions, a partner of the PRCB, has been hosting trade shows in Puerto Rico for years now, including the well-attended InterPhex Conference and Exhibition, which recently took place in early February.

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