Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company Mario Gonzalez-Lafuente
The importance of the Caribbean market to Puerto Rico
Johnson Johnrose of the Caribbean Tourism Organization catches up with Mario Gonzalez-Lafuente, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, at the World Travel Market going on now in London. Mr.Gonzalez-Lafuenta discusses the importance of the Caribbean market to Puerto Rico.
JOHNSON JOHNROSE: The Caribbean used to be a very important market for Puerto Rico with its shopping product. What has happened to the market?
MARIO GONZALEZ-LAFUENTA: It continues to be a very important market for Puerto Rico, although we have had a series of downturns in terms of air access, especially from one of our partners, American Eagle. Actually, we have had to develop that relationship again back in 2009, when we started our new administration, and we increased 250 original flights from the United States and from the Caribbean, flights that we had lost at some point in time back in 2007 and 2008. So now we are developing that market again. It is very important market – the shopping market. Medical tourism from the Caribbean is very important, and we have a new law right now that allows for additional promotions and allows for service providers in Puerto Rico to become more aggressive since they will be receiving incentives – credit incentives, tax incentives – from the government of Puerto Rico. We are developing a whole strategy to enhance and further the medical tourism, which is very important also for the Caribbean market in Puerto Rico.
JOHNROSE: What are you doing, and I know you’ve mentioned medical tourism, which appeals not to just Caribbean people, but almost everyone else, but particularly the Caribbean, because there seems to be a sense that you’ve forgotten that there is a Caribbean there that has been a very strong support of Puerto Rico, because, one, it’s been a hub, but two, as I said, it’s been for the shopping. So how do you repair that relationship? I’m not quite sure that “repair” is the word, but repair that relationship?
GONZALEZ-LAFUENTA: Well, first of all, strengthen our ties with our Caribbean nations, first of all. Second of all, we are strengthening our ties with the air access partners, such as American Eagle, Insel Air, that just started a couple of years ago their service into Puerto Rico, so we are continuing our relationship with them, increasing service with air service providers, and increasing promotion in our primary markets. In the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico has an office in the Dominican Republic and strengthen with our promotion marketing and public relations campaign.
JOHNROSE: What about southern and eastern Caribbean?
GONZALEZ-LAFUENTA: Extremely important for us, especially with relationships with cruise ships.