Puerto Rico, like its people, is warm, hospitable and resilient.
A melting pot of Spanish, Taino Indian and African cultures, cuisine and breathtaking nature leaves travelers breathless, and yet, whether it’s your first or tenth time visiting, the island always feels like home.
The seismic activity that recently occurred has left many wondering about its effect on tourism in Puerto Rico.
After Governor Wanda Vázquez declared a state of emergency, as a precaution to ensure resources such as FEMA and the National Guard were deployed to support areas in the southern region, the public had many questions.
My team at Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s Destination Marketing Organization, experienced many inquiries from travelers, all of them ultimately begging the question – “Is Puerto Rico open for tourists?”
Unwavering, our answer remains and is, yes.
After the seismic activity, the island saw no significant disruptions to tourism as most areas outside the southern region of the island were not structurally impacted.
Unfortunately, in the south, there were two tourism sites, Punta Ventana in Guayanilla and the Ruins of the Lighthouse in Guánica that were damaged.
Out of 160 hotels endorsed by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) throughout the island, only the Copamarina Beach Resort in Guánica and the Costa Bahía Hotel in Guayanilla are working on repairing damages, all others are hosting visitors.
Following the natural disturbances, 99 percent of power has been restored to those who initially lost it, flights are operating normally to/from the San Juan, Ponce and Aguadilla airports and all major hotels are open and welcoming guests.
In the days that followed the seismic activity, we welcomed 56,000 cruise passengers into our San Juan Port who had the chance to explore the vibrant, cobble stoned streets of Old San Juan.
We want to continue the boom that tourism had in the past year and keep the industry strong in order to continue growing the economy.
The tourism industry accounts for close to 80,000 jobs across 17 different sectors and 6.5% of the economy’s GDP. We stand in solidarity with impacted communities recovering in the southern region and are confident that the tourism industry will support the recuperation of those areas. In 2019, tourism in Puerto Rico broke boundaries with real results that impacted the local economy.
The island welcomed over 4 million visitors and had a 55 percent increase in tourism demand. Total lodging inventory increased 3.4 percent and air access is currently at a 10-year high with a projection of over 5 million inbound seats. There are even new and exciting offerings including the farm-to-table movement and a bustling, soon to be open, entertainment complex.
We are encouraging people to show their support by traveling to the Island for their vacations, work trips, meetings, conferences and events. With offerings for every type of traveler, we urge visitors to enjoy the Island’s eclectic culture, gastronomy and unbeatable attractions. Our beaches, restaurants, hotels and travel service providers across the Island are open and ready to welcome visitors.
The Ponce Cruise Port, the Puerto Rico Convention Center, and major attractions such as El Morro, El Yunque, and San Cristobal Fort, continue to be open for business.
Travelers with questions about their personal itineraries should reach out to their specific travel providers, hotels and other businesses to confirm details of their operations.
The island is filled with wonderful and resilient people who have hospitality in their DNA. If we are to continue the tourism boom we saw in 2019, and drive the economy of local communities, we need to ensure potential visitors know that Puerto Rico is open for tourism, and with good reason.
There is much to explore in every part of Puerto Rico.
With this, we invite you to come eat with us, dance with us and experience the unique beauty and warmth of our people.
Brad Dean is the CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.