Every year, five million people from all corners of the world take a break from their daily lives and jobs and fly –or sail– to Puerto Rico. Once there, whether on its endless sandy beaches, its overwhelming tropical settings or its historic cities and towns, tourist spend around USD 4 billion, creating jobs for more than 800,000 people. Representing only around 8% of the country’s economy, due to the fact that Puerto Ricans engage in a wide variety of other economic and industrial activities, tourism is nevertheless at the heart of the culture of a people enormously proud of their part of the Earth and always willing to show it and to share it with the world.
The institution in charge of keeping Puerto Rico on the world map is the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, which has made historical efforts to promote the many things the island has to offer. Through the Corporation for the Promotion of Puerto Rico, the Company has not only managed an increase in tourism in the midst of a long economic recession, but more importantly a diversification of touristic attractions that has greatly helped to even out the benefits among the population. Moreover, the Company has set itself the task to ensure tourism grows sustainably, so that the nature that attracts so many people does not suffer in the process of hosting them in the island. “We have it all, except for snow sports”, says José Izquierdo, Executive Director of the Company. “But our job is not only to promote tourism, but to promote economic wellbeing in a sustainable, responsible way”. In fact, since the implementation of new tourism legislation by the Governorship of Ricardo Roselló, the sector has been experiencing record growth in hotel tax collection, and has been recognized by the EPA for their efforts in sustainable tourism and development of a number of agrotouristic projects and ecotourism companies.
On September 20th 2017, nevertheless, a Category 4 hurricane known as Maria swept over the island leaving dozens of victims, knocking out electricity and facing all PuertoRicans with the biggest challenge their island has met in recent history. But despite the size of the damages, and the threat the disaster caused for future travel to the island, Puerto Rican citizens, authorities and companies have managed to come together in an admirable effort to clean up, repair and assist those in need, and to restore the island to order. “If you drive around the main roads and tourist areas, you will see a very different picture of what the news media sometimes choose to show”, says Mr. Izquierdo, who’s office has overseen the restoration of power, communications and water services, which are already at around 70%, and the reopening of the main airports, seaports and cruise lines, which have all resumed full operations. “There is a lot of optimism”, says Mr. Izquierdo, “and we think that with the measures being taken and the attention being paid to the sector, we will be able not only to be fully functional by
“We have it all in Puerto Rico, except for snow sports”
high season in December, but to resume our efforts and strategies for future growth”.
In fact, the Company had carried out a number of successful efforts designed to secure a top placement for the country brand, among which was the appointment of singer Luis Fonsi as cultural ambassador of the island to the world, a task he is carrying out during a world tour centered on his hit-song Despacito. Other equally successful strategies have been centered on making the most of the island as the largest port in the Caribbean, and thus multiplying cruise line traffic, which in fact had seen a historical raise of 9.4% by the beginning of the year. Similarly, the Company is also working on improving air traffic into the island and expand airline operations into San Juan Airport from Latin America, Europe, Canada and the US, and it is positive it will see a growth of 4% by the end of the year. “Getting people to come is the best way of really showing them all that the island has to offer”, explains Mr. Izquierdo. “We are happy to share with you our sun, our beaches and our gastronomy, but we also want you to experience first-hand the story of how Puerto Rico has risen, through thick and thin, into a firm, collaborative community, brimming with opportunity and health”.