Puerto Rico hopes to become the top destination for wedding tourism in the Caribbean, a market that takes in $16 billion a year worldwide.
The director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, a government agency known by the Spanish initials CTPR, said on Monday that the Caribbean attracts 30 percent of the world's total wedding tourism market, but that the U.S. commonwealth has won only a small percentage of that business up to now.
Marío González said that just 7 percent of Americans who get married in the Caribbean choose Puerto Rico.
The official added that the CTPR, determined to change that state of affairs, is taking steps to publicize internationally a new law that makes it easier for non-residents of Puerto Rico to get married here.
From now on a future bride and groom will not have to present originals of their blood-test results as is currently required under Puerto Rican law.
"With the new measure, Puerto Rico will experience an estimated annual growth of between 6 and 8 percent in wedding tourism celebrations," the official said.
González recalled that since the new measure was signed into law last August, hotels on the island have shown a substantial increase in reservations for foreigners getting married.
He gave as an example San Juan's iconic Hotel La Concha, which during the first four months of the year had an 11 percent increase in tourists' wedding celebrations.
Another renowned hotel, El Convento in Old San Juan, last year had revenues of $1 million thanks largely to wedding tourism, González said.
"Every wedding held in Puerto Rico generates revenues of between $20,000 and $30,000, not counting the families and friends staying over," he said.
The importance of this business is so great that the most important hotels on the island have personnel dedicated exclusively to handling weddings for foreigners.
González believes that Puerto Rico could be the No. 1 wedding destination in the Caribbean because of all it has to offer besides hotel accomodations, among which he mentioned the culture, gastronomy and wonders of nature, all superior in his opinion to what its competitors in the region can boast.