The first Puerto Rico Bed & Breakfast Association meeting was held today in Casa Sol, the lovely bed & breakfast home of Eddie Ramirez and “Tisha” Margarita Pastor located in El Viejo San Juan. Their bed & breakfast is a restored colonial building that was possibly the residence of Spanish soldiers who once guarded Old San Juan. Eddie and Tisha gave us a tour highlighting all the improvements they made in the building—often with locally-sourced materials—and their solar panel installation that makes their property nearly carbon neutral.
The hosts delighted us with their house specialty: French toast made with homemade artisan bread and topped with their guava syrup. Eddie explained why he wanted to create a bed & breakfast association in Puerto Rico; of course, he said, we will have more bargaining power in numbers and be able to accomplish more together such as the economic breaks large hotels are already getting.
During the meeting, we had the opportunity to meet other owners of bed & breakfasts in Puerto Rico which have also been endorsed by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. We met Natalia and her daughter, Elena, the owners of Casa Castellana in the well-known tourist district of El Condado. Natalia and Elena were very warm and welcoming, and described their bed & breakfast as a Spanish colonial house. They both offered a great deal of experience in the business and many innovative ideas. Jose Miguel and Edwin described their bed & breakfast, Casa Isabel, as a place that offers its visitors a peaceful and quiet home that was meticulously designed so that guests can relax and enjoy their time in Puerto Rico. Casa Isabel is located next to Ocean Park Beach and El Condado. Bill and Renée, the owners of The Rainforest Inn, introduced their bed & breakfast in a way that evoked relaxation and tranquility. Located within the El Yunque rainforest—the only subtropical rainforest in the U.S.—The Rainforest Inn is an elegantly renovated property enveloped by the forest, therefore offering guests an intimate experience with the rainforest (such as a private hike that summits a waterfall). Yaiza and Edwin, the owners of San Sebastián Bed and Breakfast, are a young couple that opened the first bed & breakfast in the northwest region of the island. Their intimate property preserves the antiquity and cultural richness of the historic center of San Sebastián.
After introductions, the bed & breakfast owners presented various ideas, and all agreed with Eddie's idea of officially creating the bed & breakfast association (which this website foreshadows) as well as guest reservation packages that would include each of the bed & breakfasts. The owners shared their knowledge and experience with topics that create concern among visitors and locals alike, such as the Zika virus and the introduction of Uber in Puerto Rico. A discussion about the integration of new bed & breakfasts into the association followed. It was decided at this meeting that prospective bed & breakfast owners must be members of the Puerto Rico Hotel Association, become certified by the Puerto Rico Tourism Department and manage true bed & breakfasts; the owners live on the property (with less than seven rooms), act as concierges with their local knowledge and serve breakfast to guests every morning.
The meeting concluded with Eddie Ramirez explaining some of the benefits that our new Puerto Rico Bed & Breakfast Association provides its members. Our group bargaining power will earn us some of the “perks” that larger hotels already have. First, Eddie said he would establish a committee for our bed & breakfast category at the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association, mainly because their “small hotel” category makes no sense for bed & breakfasts; what B&Bs offer is unique and not remotely the same as a “small” hotel of sixty rooms. Eddie also explained that he would get the IVU filing regulations amended so that we also share the filing exemptions that large hotels experience for their off-island purchases.
Our next meeting will be held in the last week in July at the Rainforest Inn, where we hope to make even more progress as well as welcome new members to the association. Sustainability ideas that were presented at Casa Sol will also be further expanded at that meeting.