President and COO, Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Before he took over as head of the $10 million a year Palm Beach County tourism agency, Jorge Pesquera, 59, worked in the Caribbean, New York and London as a high-level tourism and hotel executive, developing an international reputation as a keen strategist for growing tourism. A native Puerto Rican and a graduate of Cornell University, Pesquera cut his teeth with Hilton International. But he’s been luring visitors to Palm Beach County since 2007. And he’s not done yet. Says Pesquera: “If we’ve been a $3 billion or $4 billion industry, why can’t we double that to $6 billion or $8 billion?”
How do you promote travel to Palm Beach County? Don’t people just come here naturally?
There’s a feeling out there that it’s a piece of cake, but it’s fiercely competitive. The numbers show that we have our work cut out for us. That’s the reality. We just saw in one of our reports that our [hotel] occupancy rate is in the 60s [percentage-wise], so there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Is it an incredible asset to be able to throw around the name “Palm Beach” when writing a travel brochure?
That’s one of our biggest assets—and also one of our biggest challenges. We’re the biggest county east of the Mississippi. There are 38 cities. That makes it a lot more complicated from a point of destination marketing.
Where do most people go when they visit here?
They go all over the place. One-third of our inventory in hotels is in the Boca area. There’s another cluster in Delray Beach. The largest concentration is West Palm Beach.
How competitive is Florida tourism, among industry leaders?
Extremely. We constantly look at tourism performance numbers that are produced in different jurisdictions. And we go further than that. We compare the performance of our beach resorts in Palm Beach County to the beach resorts in Miami. We dice and slice it a lot of different ways.