ON PUERTO RICO AS A MEETING DESTINATION
Why Puerto Rico? Well, it's the most accessible island in the Caribbean. We're part of the United States; therefore, it's
easy to do business here. No passport is required. There's the same electrical standards, same US currency. We like to say
that our currency exchange rate is four quarters to a dollar. No other island has the infrastructure that we do. We tell people
that if your phone doesn't work in Puerto Rico, it's probably because you haven't turned it on. My phone is a Miami phone,
and I use it here. So conducting business in Puerto Rico is very simple.
ON THE MULTIPLICITY OF VENUES
Right now, Puerto Rico is enjoying a tremendous boom as far as hotel development is concerned. We have more than 13,000 rooms
in operation. Of those, around 7,000 are in the metro area; the others are on the rest of the island. And new development
is continually going on.
When You Are Not at a Meeting
Between the three LXR properties here in Puerto Rico—the El Conquistador, the El San Juan, and the Condado Plaza—nearly $300
million is being invested in renovations. The InterContinental just underwent a major renovation. The Ritz-Carlton right now
is undergoing a renovation. The Marriott just came out of a $35 million renovation.
On top of that, there's new development in the Condado district. La Concha Hotel is a beautiful hotel. Next door to that is
the Condado Beach, the oldest hotel in Puerto Rico. It was built in 1919 by the Vanderbilts as their weekend retreat. That
will open at the end of next year as a five-star property.
There's also the Pierre Hotel—our first Double Tree. We're very excited about that. And, of course, there's the new 500-room
Sheraton Hotel, which will be our anchor hotel at the Convention Center. It is scheduled to open in 2009. It'll be operated
by Starwood under the Sheraton brand. It's going to be key to the continued success of our Convention Center.
ON WHAT THE RENOVATIONS MEAN
Take the El Conquistador: It just furthered its $103 million transformation with the opening of its conference center. Combined
with the resort's existing space, it offers a total of four ballrooms and over 100,000 square feet of tech-sophisticated
meeting space, more than any other resort in the Caribbean.
The Westin, the old Westin Rio Mar, has been reflagged to the Wyndham. They're pumping around $36 million into that hotel.
All of the guest rooms have the Be Well beds now. They're very comfortable. They've just opened with an expanded casino. So
that hotel is a huge incentive property, very important for us as far as meetings and conventions.
ON OTHER AREAS OF THE ISLAND
Looking toward the West Coast, in Porta del Sol, the Mayagüez Resort just finished a major renovation, which features 12,000
square feet of meeting facilities. And they just opened a new river pool. And in Ponce, the Ponce Hilton also just opened
a 6,000-square-foot exhibition center.