ON AIRPORT EXPANSION
In addition to the hotels, we've got a lot of development going on in other areas, such as our airport. Puerto Rico is a hub
of American Airlines. We've also got Delta, Continental, Spirit, Northwest, and JetBlue. Around $390 million is being invested
in the new renovation of the Luis Muñoz Marin Airport, which includes a brand-new terminal. It resembles the architecture
we have at the Convention Center. It looks like a wave as well.
On the West Coast, we have the airport in Aguadilla. The airport there has longest runway in the Caribbean. Since it once
belonged to the United States Air Force, whatever they did, they did in grand scale. So that airport is undergoing renovations.
Five years ago, it was handling maybe 25 to 30,000 passengers. Now it's handling more than 350,000 passengers.
ON THE ISLAND'S CROWN JEWEL
We call the Puerto Rico Convention Center our shining star. It's the new kid on the block with a total of 580,000 square feet
of meeting space, making it the largest in the Caribbean.
The Exhibition Hall is over 152,000 square feet and has a 39,000-square-foot ballroom. It's a spectacular property. Most of
the convention centers throughout the world are just boxes. The architecture of this is spectacular. The location is spectacular.
You have some views of the ocean from that center that you don't find anywhere else.
In addition to the ballroom and the Exhibition Hall, it features an additional 36,000 square feet of meeting facilities, which
is basically 15 breakouts, or 15 meeting rooms that break out into 28 breakout rooms. So it's quite large. It's taken Puerto
Rico to another level. It has given us the opportunity to host groups that, otherwise, we would have had to turn away.
In 2007, we hosted three major citywide conventions in addition to a lot of other small ones. This year we have almost one
citywide convention every month. Some months have two. It's created a demand for hotel rooms that we don't have. And, unfortunately,
sometimes you have to tell the client, "I'm sorry, we cannot host your convention." But we're working on that. We're working
to develop additional rooms.
We hosted Interfex in February. It is the Caribbean's premiere event for pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing.
Over 350 solutions providers attend. We had five conference tracks—over 25 sessions. It's huge. We also had Shoppers Drug
Mart conference already this year. Shoppers Drug Mart is like the Canadian Wal-Mart or Walgreens—the largest drug store in
Canada. They had about 4,000 to 5,000 delegates as well. So that's another huge convention. So, as you can see, the Convention
Center has been extremely successful. We're very pleased with all of the results that we've had year-to-date.
And it doesn't stop there. The Convention Center is going to be the centerpiece of the Puerto Rico Convention Center District.
It is considered to be the largest waterfront development project in the history of the US and its territories. The project
is structured as a public/private partnership. It will be a multiuse urban center, combining business and entertainment in
a 113-acre complex. It is slated for completion in 2012. And it will include hotels, retail shops, restaurants, office space,
movie theaters, as well as residential units.
So you ask Why Puerto Rico? Well, as you can see, the Convention Center has been a drawing force for a new and very exciting
era of economic and tourist development for the entire island. We think it all makes for a very dynamic and inviting meeting
destination, particularly for pharma. And remember, you don't need a passport to get here.
Marylyn Donahue is Pharmaceutical Executive's special projects editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org