When the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) chose Puerto Rico and the historic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in the capital city of San Juan to host its annual convention in 2018, it could not have foreseen Hurricane Maria. The storm ravaged the island in September 2017, just a year before FIAE planned to convene there. But one month after the storm, the Condado Vanderbilt invited FIAE President Beverly Lynch to the venue to see firsthand that despite the storm, the hotel and the island were ready to welcome them and host a quality conference.
“I was pleasantly surprised at the state of the island and the property,” Lynch told PCMA. “Everything was just terrific, and the hotel was most definitely open for business. I briefed the attendees, and they enthusiastically endorsed the meeting to be held in Puerto Rico.”
The FIAE was now even more determined to meet in Puerto Rico, viewing it as an opportunity to give back to a destination that holds hospitality and resiliency in its DNA, according to Lynch. As part of the conference, the FIAE held a charitable event at a local orphanage, where attendees cleaned, planted new flowers and foliage, and tended the garden. All the proceeds from the event’s silent auction went to the orphanage leaders, whom the FIAE welcomed as guests at the annual conference’s closing breakfast. “It was a very warm event,” Lynch said.
Delegates also got to explore the destination via a supermarket tour, which was a “huge hit.” This was no surprise given the destination’s culinary appeal and growing farm-to-table movement. When meeting attendees weren’t taking in the sights of Puerto Rico’s natural splendor, they got to explore the elegant Vanderbilt. From the moment the FIAE arrived at the luxury property, hotel employees made attendees feel at home, Lynch said.
“The Vanderbilt staff was top notch,” she said, “very welcoming and accommodating. The food and beverage, room set ups, check-in, restaurant service, pool, and spa are all outstanding.”
Puerto Rico was such a hit among the FIAE attendees that many extended their stay on the island, either before or after the conference, Lynch said, and others came back for vacation with their families. According to Lynch, delegates will not forget the warm reception and hospitality they experienced during their stay in Puerto Rico. The organization realized the critical role that tourism plays for the destination, impacting numerous other sectors of the economy. The island is, after all, a destination where tourism significantly impacts communities.
Plus, Puerto Rico’s rich culture, cuisine, history, and arts and music scene are unlike any other. As an Island filled with natural wonders, including the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. national forest system, El Yunque, and three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays, there’s plenty for delegates to explore. And with growing hospital developments, the medical tourism sector is quickly expanding. Among Puerto Rico’s other numerous and exciting future endeavors are the 500-year anniversary of the city of San Juan, which begins this fall and runs through 2021; the opening of District San Juan, a five-acre hospitality and entertainment district; and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) 2020 Global Summit, which the city will host. There has never been a better time to visit Puerto Rico.