Welcome to the Meeting and Event Planning Guide to Puerto Rico, a guide for meeting professionals. Cultural capital, Caribbean paradise, Gateway to the Americas, home of the pina colada – Puerto Rico has it all. As a U.S. territory and longtime getaway destination, the island enjoys easy accessibility from all U.S. hubs (no passport needed) and a well-educated, highly trained workforce that includes seasoned hospitality professionals. Meeting venues in Puerto Rico in particular benefit from the island's industrial diversity, which ranges from the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and bio-medical solutions, to one of the largest rum distilleries in the world.
With meetings and conventions comprising nearly one-third of the Puerto Rico's tourism revenue, the island's hospitality and meeting industry takes group business seriously, offering more than 1.3 million square feet of conference and function space and over 14,000 hotel rooms island-wide to suit any budget. Options range from intimate boardrooms for small groups to the largest ballroom in the Caribbean; the mix includes cosmopolitan hotels in the San Juan metropolitan area, as well as luxurious resorts located on the island's most magnificent beaches.
Among the most popular with meeting and incentive groups are the El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort and the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club.
Another resort that quickly grew in popularity after its December 2012 opening is the 114-room Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, located in the former setting of the renowned Laurance Rockefeller property. The ultra-luxury property offers a 4,558-square-foot meeting room, a boardroom, and private event areas such as Su Casa, a Colonial-style hacienda featuring a four-bedroom villa. The resort is also home to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Future Society of Ambassadors of Environment program, which incorporates eco-education through group land/sea adventures such as snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and touring an ancient Taino archaeological site on the hotel’s property.
Redefining Puerto Rico's tourism landscape is the Puerto Rico Convention Center Pedro Rossello. The largest facility of its type in the Caribbean, this visually dramatic facility has a wave-like roof and a 13-story "glass curtain" looking out across to the Atlantic. It evokes images of Puerto Rico's historic and natural surroundings. The center offers a 152,700-square-foot exhibition hall, a 39,500-square-foot ballroom and 37,587 square feet of meeting space in 15 flexible rooms totaling 28 breakout rooms. Technology at this state-of-the-art facility includes fully programmable lighting controls, broadband and wireless Internet connectivity, video-conferencing and satellite linking capabilities, the center provides delegates with a high-tech, high-touch experience. A full-service business center, catering and event staff, production rigging, sound and light staff are also available on site.
The center is part of a multi-use waterfront development that, upon completion, will offer delegates a selection of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues in a distinct tourist zone for business gatherings and events. Currently, the district is comprised of the convention center and the 503-room Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino Hotel (with 40,000 square feet of meeting space), a fountain and walkways, two restaurants - Ficus Mexican Bar & Grill and Texas de Brazil, a Brazilian-style steak house. Coming in fall 2014 will be Hyatt House San Juan, with 126 studio, one and two-bedroom suites.
Other hotels within one mile of the of the convention center are prime meetings properties like the 910-room Caribe Hilton, the 570-room The Condado Plaza Hilton, the 140-room Courtyard by Marriott Miramar, the 50-room Miramar Hotel, and the 14-unit Ciqala Luxury Suites.
Another redevelopment project under way is linking the Puerto Rico Convention Center District to Old San Juan. Bahia Urbana is revitalizing 21 blocks of abandoned warehouses and docks along San Antonio Canal, transforming the area into a mixed-use residential, dining, shopping, and hotel district. Currently, a pedestrian parkway along the former pier area has been completed. And one of the most vibrant areas for meeting attendees, Pier 8, is quickly unfolding elements that include an urban beach, an open-air market featuring local and artisanal goods, a festival lawn for concerts, a waterfront cafe, and attractions such as an historic Tall Ship and the Trapeze School of NY.
Beyond its meeting spaces, Puerto Rico is well known for its stunning beaches, lush tropical landscape and rich cultural heritage. Daytime group activities include water sports, championship golf, spa activities and hiking or team-building events in the El Yunque Rainforest. In Old San Juan, the oldest walled city in the Caribbean, visitors can explore 500 years of Spanish cultural heritage along cobblestone streets, which are lined with Colonial buildings that now house chic restaurants, contemporary art galleries and distinctive shopping opportunities. Evening options include private dining at top island restaurants, and enjoying live music, dance and other activities in hotel casinos, lounges, and nightclubs.
With the benefit of being geographically central to both North and South America, Puerto Rico enjoys ample airlift from around the globe; just over four hours of flying time from New York, two hours from Miami and eight hours from London.
Moreover, the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) is less than 15-minute drive from major tourist zones, Old San Juan and the Puerto Rico Convention Center.
Puerto Rico continues to be the Caribbean region’s leader in airlift, with 2,000 weekly non-stop and direct flights from the Mainland U.S., Canada, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean. In April (2013), Southwest Airlines took over two AirTran routes, with three daily flights from Orlando and one daily flight from Tampa. AirTran will continue to serve Puerto Rico from Baltimore, Atlanta, and Ft. Lauderdale. In addition, JetBlue begins new daily nonstop flights between Chicago O’Hare and San Juan in November (2013).
Puerto Rico's sophisticated business sectors include manufacturing, financial services, pharmaceutical, agriculture and technology industries. As one of the world's leading rum producers, more than 70 percent of the rum sold in the U.S. originates in Puerto Rico. The island serves as headquarters for companies such as First BanCorp and Oriental Financial Group.