People

San Juan, P. R.: Where the busy season lasts only four months

LCT Staff
Posted on December 1, 2003

As Puerto Rico, and its capital of San Juan, head into the tourist season, LCT puts its spotlight on this sun-blessed U.S. commonwealth, about 1,000 miles southeast of Miami.

Overview * Puerto Rico’s main tourist season, which typically stretches from Thanksgiving to Easter, results in 85% to 90% of limousine operators’ annual total business. * During that time, 65% to 70% of business comes from tourism, with the remainder coming from corporate and weddings. During the off-season, local retail business, predominantly wedding and special-occasion work, dominate, bringing in as much as 75% of operators’ business. * “We work really hard during the tourist season to make a lot of money to carry us through the rest of the year,” says Erica Gardner, president of the Luxury Transportation Association of Puerto Rico and corporate account manager for Royal Star Limousine and Carey Puerto Rico.

Business Mix * The majority of companies primarily serve tourists, with a few being more focused on corporate clients. * “But here in Puerto Rico there’s no way that you could dedicate to one type of business only; you must diversify otherwise you’re not going to stay in business because it’s very seasonal. You have your season of weddings and you have your season of your tourists. Then you have corporate – mostly from all the pharmaceutical companies down here –supplementing all year long,” Gardner offered. * A large convention center is being built in San Juan and operators hope it will spruce up the corporate market.

Rates * Sedans average $45 to $55 an hour. * Stretches average $75 to $95 an hour.

Operators * The local limousine association has 26 members, 22 of which work out of metropolitan San Juan. * “During season there’s always enough work for everybody, and then during off-season it’s really tough competition,” Gardner said. “[And] gypsies are a huge problem.” * The average fleet size is three vehicles; the largest company, Carrousel Limousine, has 13 vehicles.

Regulatory Issues * There are a lot of restrictions for conducting business at the airport, but illegal operators slip through the cracks; governments are not willing to enforce the regulations. * “There’s a law that says they cannot pick up people without being properly licensed, but each government agency wants to push [enforcement] off on the other,” Gardner explained. * Since late July, limousine companies are regulated by the Tourism Transportation Department, and local operators are waiting on new regulations, says Robert Bonilla, operations director of First Class Chauffeurs. “They say they are going to help us out and the feedback has been excellent, so we have our fingers crossed and hope that it’s going to stay that way.”

What’s Unique * “Everyone who comes to San Juan either wants to see El Yunque rainforest or the Camui Indian Caves,” Bonilla says, adding that not many limousine operators offer tours of the two attractions. * “There are operators who are authorized to go up into the rainforest but it’s really hard to get permits because [park officials] are trying to keep it ecologically safe,” Gardner said. “Big buses are not allowed.” Local Association * Luxury Transportation Association of Puerto Rico: Erica Gardner of Carey Puerto Rico and Royal Star Limousine is president. Phone: (800) ATL-0037, fax: (787) 268-6517, Web: www.atlpr.com, e-mail: [email protected]

Related Topics: tourism

LCT Staff LCT Staff
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