Puerto Rico Convention Center, JCD
- The 21st Century’s Gateway to the Caribbean
- By: QP
The old year ends, the new one begins. The holiday season is also a time to look to the future. For tourism in Puerto Rico, the future is indisputably linked with the newly opened Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC).
For years, sanjuaneros passing by Isla Grande on the inland side of San Juan Bay watched with curiosity as the islet went from low-lying government buildings to barren land to construction trucks, trailers and scaffolding and, finally, to a dramatically grand building with a wave-shaped roof.
“We have moved from vision to reality with the opening of the new Convention Center, and are enthusiastically beginning a new era redefining our Island’s tourism marketplace,” explains Ana María Viscacillas, president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, the center’s official sales and marketing agent. “Puerto Rico offers an unparalleled meeting experience in a familiar U.S. location, with an exotic, international flavor combined with a sophisticated infrastructure and the most advanced technology in the Caribbean. We are very excited about the opportunities that the new center will afford Puerto Rico in hosting larger groups that will help realize our mission in becoming the Preferred Meeting Destination of the Americas.”
The opportunities are already happening. In September 2007 Puerto Rico will be the official host for the 28th annual National Convention & Business Expo for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. More than 6,000 people will attend the four-day conference, and there will be some 200 exhibitors at the two-day Business Expo. The estimated economic impact of the convention on Puerto Rico is approximately $5 million. The Puerto Rico Convention Bureau defeated competitors from such mega-convention cities as Orlando, Memphis and Nashville.
Virtually everyone in the Island tourism industry looks to the center with great expectations. “The new Puerto Rico Convention Center represents an incredible opportunity for Puerto Rico,” stresses Clarisa Jiménez, executive director of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association. “We will be able to handle group business that we couldn’t before. And this means more tourists to our Island, more jobs and better business opportunities for our industry. Puerto Rico can now compete with world-class group and meeting destinations such as. Ft. Lauderdale and San Antonio.”
“The Puerto Rico Convention Center and surrounding District will offer meeting attendees a dynamic hub of activity,” stated Manuel Sánchez Biscombe, executive director, Convention Center District Authority. “The District’s convention, entertainment, dining, office and residential features will bring together visitors and the people of Puerto Rico and generate an estimated $300 million annually to the local economy.”
In order to meet the needs of the center, which can accommodate more than 10,000 convention delegates and will soon be expanded to accommodate more, thousands of new hotel rooms are under construction and proposals for an equal number are currently being evaluated by the Tourism Company. Directly and indirectly, tourism could add billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the Island economy, becoming a much larger industry than it is today, according to Ms. Terestella González Denton, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
There are also aesthetics to consider. When completed, the 113-acre Convention Center District will have transformed an underutilized section of the city into a beautiful waterfront development with hotels, residences, offices, shops, cinema complexes and landscaped parks, and San Juan will have yet another reason to be known as the cosmopolitan capital of the Caribbean.