The Sheraton Hotel Puerto Rico overlooks the Puerto Rico Convention Center. // © 2011 Sheraton Convention Center Hotel
When it's wintertime, it's hard not to get excited about visiting a tropical island. And, since this winter has been especially severe in much of the country, agents who have signed up for ASTA's International Destination Expo (IDE), held April 14-16 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, are in for some sun and fun, as well as an educational experience.
These days, staying educated on today's travel offerings is one of the most important ways that travel agents can stay relevant in an industry that is becoming increasingly mobile. Market demands are constantly changing and technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. IDE is one way agents can distinguish themselves and also have an in-depth destination experience -- as well as some fun.
This year's IDE features educational seminars on ways to boost Caribbean sales and how to develop multinational partnerships, as well as concentrated sessions on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean region and complimentary sightseeing tours. Attendees also qualify for ASTA's destination certification program, which verifies an agent's training as a destination specialist. This year's education seminars will take place at the new Puerto Rico Convention Center
located in San Juan's Convention District.
For extra convenience, the beautiful and brand-new Sheraton Puerto Rico Convention Center Hotel & Casino is located across the street. The hotel offers 503 rooms and 22 suites, each with a 40-inch flat-screen television, a Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed, a coffee maker with Starbucks coffee, an iPod docking station, high-speed wireless and wired Internet access and more. The hotel also features Sheraton's signature Link@Sheraton, a business center with public computers, making it easy for guests to print boarding passes, send e-mail or catch up on work while out of the office.
One of the best features on the property is its infinity pool that overlooks the convention center as well as the ocean beyond. Since the hotel is adjacent to the convention center, it is easy to maximize business meetings and relaxation time.
San Juan is blessed with several iconic hotels in the Condado area that hearken back to an era known as tropical modernism and, believe me, here the old really is new again. Most recently, La Concha, a Renaissance Resort, reopened along the waterfront. The hotel, and it's Perla restaurant, are the epitome of tropical modernism. The property was built in 1958 and, not long ago, it was an abandoned building along the Condado waterfront until it was lovingly restored to maintain its retro-chic appeal. The property features rooms with ocean views and the Condado Tower, tastefully designed to blend in with the iconic original hotel tower, offers executive suites, ideal for families, long-term visitors and those who need extra space.
The Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino, another featured IDE hotel, had one of my favorite features -- free AT&T Wi-Fi and a Starbucks downstairs. The hotel's decor is also 1950's retro chic. It has a spacious pool area and beachfront. An ideal spot to relax is in one of several hammocks located on a lawn facing the water.
I am not a gambler, so I didn't spend much time in the casino, but it features evening entertainment and the small gaming floor always seemed busy. The hotel doesn't have a spa, but it does offer seaside massage treatments, and there is a nice fitness center with an indoor Jacuzzi, a sauna and a steam room.
The Caribe Hilton, one of the first Hilton properties in the Caribbean, is also a throwback to a bygone era. The hotel is still in the process of doing a renovation, but it isn't disruptive to guests. The many lush, secluded areas for relaxing on the property, as well as its abundance of unique meeting and event space, makes the hotel ideal for incentive groups.
During IDE, agents can also unwind at various evening events. Discover the Stars of Isla Verde, at Municipality of Carolina, kicks off IDE on the first evening, April 14. The next night, the Puerto Rico Gala, will feature fine-dining and dancing.
The final night, Peru, IDE's 2012 destination, will host a dinner.
After that, it's off to Lima.