Puerto Rico’s Gets A Hyatt Regency



Governor Announces Puerto Rico’s First Hyatt Regency

The Weekly Journal Staff 6-4-19

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced that Gran Meliá Hotel was bought by Monarch Alternative Capital in partnership with Royal Palm Companies and Ambridge Hospitality.  Together they will rebrand and relaunch the hotel as the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve. The governor announced that the developers are contemplating a 10-year master plan. This will include  six hotels in the Grand Reserve (Coco Beach) peninsula in Río Grande, of which three are expected to be opening by 2022. “Transactions such as these that are happening now validate that our commitment to tourism is a successful one, and there is a positive environment for investment,” Rosselló said at the 41st International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference by New York University (NYU)The governor added, “we have managed to streamline processes to grant tax benefits and permits, which proves that this administration maintains a bureaucratic battle so that the private sector may have better investment opportunities.”

New Project

The Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Resort will have five new restaurants and will create roughly 200 new jobs. The average rate is expected to fluctuate by $300 per night. During his presentation, Rosselló revealed blueprints and mockups for the property. He stressed that Puerto Rico’s “fertile and positive” environment for investments in the hotel industry.  The Hyatt Regency Coco Beach Resort is part of a $120 million deal made possible through an agreement with the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC), which granted tax credits conforming to the P.R. Tourism Development Act (Act No. 74-2010). Of the total investment, $100 million correspond to development costs to elevate the property to Hyatt’s luxury standards. The PRTC has been working on this business deal along investors for several months. PRTC Executive Director Carla Campos assures that Tourism is focused on increasing the island’s hotel inventory in the short term, emphasizing Puerto Rico’s “competitive and incomparable” investment advantages.

After damages caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Monarch Alternative Capital, which already had interests in the peninsula, seized the opportunity to acquire the Gran Meliá Resort, with 486 rooms, 135 bedroom units, and 14 more terrain acres. In order to proceed with the transaction, Monarch made a conjoint agreement with Royal Palm Companies and Ambridge Hospitality. According to Campos, this project makes part of a “long-term master plan” that seeks to add 2,500 new rooms to the island’s hotel inventory and 1,500 new jobs. “This will result in a total investment of roughly $1.5 billion, when the six hotels are finished,” she added. Both the governor and the PRTC executive director stressed Puerto Rico’s strategic position as a connector between the United States and Latin America and the island’s structural reforms, which they claim positions Puerto Rico as the most competitive U.S. jurisdiction for hotel investment.

The officials also highlighted the investment tools that provide a combination of tax benefits at state level, in addition to the competitive advantage of being almost entirely eligible for certain benefits and exemptions under the Opportunity Zones incentive as included in the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. 

For more information on Caribbean hospitality projects, contact AG&T. 

Undaunted By Puerto Rico’s Financial Mess, Hospitality Industry Blazes Ahead

Bisnow Article by deirdra.funcheon@bisnow.com July 24

“As you can imagine, things are a bit crazy here,” said Emilio Colón-Zavala, president of ECZ Group and head of the Puerto Rico Builders’ Association, this month — even though it has been almost a year since Hurricane Maria slammed his homeland.Puerto Rico is still recovering from hurricane-related infrastructure failures (the water system was long-neglected and the electric company has had five CEOs in a year) as well as a decade-plus financial crisis.

The commonwealth owes creditors a whopping $124B, and bondholders are fighting over who will be repaid. Investors are looking to scoop up distressed properties or take advantage of generous tax incentives, and cryptocurrency entrepreneurs have invaded with a vision to remake the island and run it on bitcoin. Meanwhile, residents still struggle; the average family income is about $20K.  Amid these challenges, the hospitality industry is putting on its best face and charging sunnily ahead. Most hotels in the commonwealth are back open or will resume operations by the time high season begins in September; some already had record occupancy for spring break.  Colón-Zavala and other experts will discuss these converging factors — and the state of the hospitality industry throughout the Caribbean — at Bisnow’s Caribbean Hospitality and Investment Summit in Miami Aug. 23.


Carla Campos, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (a government agency), said the hospitality industry was seizing this moment to come back better and stronger. As of May, she told Travel Weekly, 12,000 of Puerto Rico’s 15,000 hotel rooms were operational and the other 3,000 were being remodeled. She said the reopening of the St. Regis, El San Juan and the Ritz-Carlton in October would be recovery milestones. The hurricane made Americans more aware that Puerto Rico is “a U.S. territory and you don’t need a passport to go there, that there is easy access from U.S. cities,” Campos said. “That puts us in this position to seize the opportunity to capitalize on this increased awareness and convert it into awareness in travel.” In addition to her agency, a Destination Marketing Organization — a private nonprofit corporation responsible for the promotion abroad of Puerto Rico as a tourist destination — was established with legislation last year and will be funded with $25M annually. Brad Dean, the former head of Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, will run the DMO and recruit both leisure and business travelers. 

Colón-Zavala said in addition to remodels, new construction is on tap. A JW Marriott, Aloft San Juan Convention Center, Aloft Ponce and Four Seasons Cayo Largo are all in the works. “We have already like $1.9B in projects in the pipeline,” Colón-Zavala said. “It’s going to be like a 4,000-room increase — like 5% of hotel inventory. We have 15,000 hotel rooms in Puerto Rico and the pipeline is almost 25% more.” That means builders are in high demand — “You get proposals left and right,” Colón-Zavala said — but contractors are being selective about which jobs to take for fear of not getting paid in a timely manner. Private insurance has been slow to pay claims, and some government agencies don’t have funds due to the commonwealth’s financial crisis. FEMA is still active, and is siphoning workers from other jobs by paying 25% to 50% more, Colón-Zavala said.From an investment standpoint, Colón-Zavala said people from around the world have been interested in Puerto Rico; there is a lot of interest from China. Investors should look not just at hotels and resorts, but also at public-private partnerships in infrastructure, Colón-Zavala said. He said private companies have recently been awarded concessions to run a ferry service, a major highway and airport operations. 

Numerous solar companies have also descended on the region. “A year ago, people would not buy solar with batteries because of the expense that it represented,” he said. “This year, it’s the other way around — you would be crazy not to buy a battery with your solar panels.”    Sion Capital founder Jonathan Kracer, who advises real estate investors and will also speak at next month’s event, wrote recently that there is forward momentum pulsing through the 30 major Caribbean islands. All-inclusive resorts are doing brisk business, and low-cost airlines from all around the world have increased flights to the region. Kracer told Bisnow that following last year’s hurricanes, “I was surprised by the lack of a cohesive communications strategy to change traveler misconceptions about the conditions in the Caribbean. Only about eight islands of the [about] 30 in the Caribbean were most impacted by Hurricane Irma, and the perception of damage impacted demand volumes in the whole region.” Ultimately, though, he said that better construction techniques and stricter building standards would bode well for the region. Right now, he said the best move for investors would probably be “acquiring older independent assets or damaged properties from the recent hurricanes, and renovating and professionally managing them … As tourism is the most important economic driver for the region, the Caribbean is very resilient and will bounce back.”  

Another panelist, Rogerio Basso, principal investment officer for multilateral development bank IDB Invest, said “We have a heightened appetite to explore greenfield operations in the Caribbean and are also seeing growing interest from regional banks to fund hospitality transactions. Rising interest rates, however, are putting pressure on developers to not overextend themselves on debt and ensuring projects have sound fundamentals to withstand market trepidations.”

Hear more about tourism, hotels and investment in the Caribbean at Bisnow’s Caribbean Hospitality and Investment Summit Aug. 23. 


As Puerto Rico continues to work around the $70B public debt crisis that threatens its economy, the commonwealth’s governor, Ricardo Rossello Nevares, and another key economic development official are pushing for private development that could help tip the economic scales. Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the island nation is pushing public-private partnerships to help various redevelopments in the country that will ultimately lead to job creation. With the economic crisis, Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate topped 12% as of January.

Open for business means we are going to foster economic growth and private investment,” said Manuel Laboy, secretary of economic development and commerce of Puerto Rico, during a Bisnow event focused on Latin American investment and development last week in Miami. “It means that the government needs to be out of the way.” Laboy said the government has targeted to grow tourism from being 7% of the total economy to 15% within five years. “That means that we’ll need more hotels. That means that we’ll need more facilities,” he said.


Coco Beach Residences

Jay Smith, president of nFusion Consultancy, already is a believer in the Puerto Rico recovery story. His firm specializes in “broken” projects for a value-add play. “Those opportunities in the United States are virtually gone,” Smith said. “They are very thin.” The firm invested in Coco Beach, a 1000-acre oceanfront project that holds a 36-hole golf course that hosts the PGA tour. Smith told Bisnow in a previous interview that nFusion is marketing a development plan for a hotel and up to 1,000 homes as well as a small town center for a mixed-use community. “Ultimately, we’ll sell it or partner with a developer, most likely from the United States,” he said.

Because of the bond crisis, Smith said real estate values have bottomed out and are ripe for investing. That is helped by Puerto Rico having a seamless regulatory environment, much of which is run by U.S. government entities. “It’s a very similar and, seems to me, much less risky environment,” he said.