The following is a copy of an article published on The Weekly Journal on Jan 8, 2020. The full article can be found here
As part of efforts to boost the luxury yacht market in Puerto Rico, Bacalia Group, the owners of Marina Puerto Chico in Fajardo, has invested $4 million in renovations and is launching a new VIP marina for well-heeled sailors.
Newly branded as The Reserve, the VIP marina for luxury yachts features completely revamped facilities, as well as concierge, cleaning and maintenance services for boats.
Marina Puerto Chico currently has about 1,300 boats on a regular basis, among its wetslip, drystack and boatyard facilities.
However, the marina will soon reach its goal of accommodating 1,500 boats on a regular basis. “The demand that we have for our marina is very high; we have a waiting list of about 200 boats, including many people who have their boats in the San Juan area. People know that this area [in Fajardo] is unique,” said Marlon Mellado, CEO of Marina Puerto Chico.
Investment firm Bacalia Group acquired Marina Puerto Chico in 2016, with the aim of boosting nautical tourism on the island. While Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island, nautical tourism is fairly small, especially compared with that of the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.
This represents an opportunity for growth in the sector. The tourism industry plays a big role in Puerto Rico’s new economic model, and nautical tourism is a key area within the island’s touristic offerings, indicated Sebastian Rebolledo, a spokesman for Bacalia Group.
“The upper economic classes of the island have expressed an interest in investing in luxury yachts in recent years, whether for recreational use and commercial use. There is also the new market of investors on the island who have shown great interest in this hobby,” referring to Act 22 investors, according to Rebolledo.
The economic potential of nautical tourism represents “millions of dollars in rentals and repairs just in this area of the industry,” he said to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL. “This implies the generation of new jobs and a greater degree of specialization of workers. This means Puerto Rico will become increasingly expert in nautical tourism, [which is important] when facing more demanding consumers. This is a positive evolution,” Rebolledo added.
The marina is located in Puerto Chico Bay, where visitors can enjoy the beautiful beaches and nearby cays, just 20 minutes by boat. There are also two restaurants on site: Cinco Nudos and El Yate. Other activities in the area include sport fishing, snorkeling, diving and experiencing the spectacular bioluminescent lagoon of Fajardo on kayak excursions.
Persy Rier, who runs Kayaking Puerto Rico, noted the importance of ecotourism in Puerto Chico Bay, as motorized boats are not permitted in the bioluminescent lagoon. “Our excursions are in natural reserves, where we mix recreation with education. In that sense, our nighttime excursion to the bioluminescent lagoon in Fajardo is one of the principal attractions [in the area,” he said.
Visitors at Marina Puerto Chico can also charter private boats, raft, book diving and snorkeling tours and engage in recreational fishing.
Marina Puerto Chico supports several hundred jobs and is an example of businesses supporting each other. “Coexistence is fundamental to our activity, as it not only helps to diversify our offerings as a marina, but we also integrate ourselves into a virtuous circle where each of the companies that operates here empowers the other. We are a great family of entrepreneurs,” Mellado said.
Bacalia Group’s diverse $50 million investment portfolio on the island includes Marina Puerto Chico; Da House Hotel in Old San Juan with 45 rooms; Metro Medical Center in Bayamón, featuring doctors’ offices and various office spaces; and several car parking lots, totaling 4,000 parking spaces between Hato Rey, Fajardo and Bayamón.