Tuesday 18 September, 2018

Puerto Rico moving on as one-year anniversary of Hurricane approaches

As Puerto Rico seeks to move on from the Hurricane images of last year, Humacao, the community that posted the viral SOS sign, is now welcoming visitors to the island.

As Puerto Rico seeks to move on from the Hurricane images of last year, Humacao, the community that posted the viral SOS sign, is now welcoming visitors to the island.

Discover Puerto Rico has announced a new initiative to underscore the progress Puerto Rico’s tourism industry has made since Hurricane Maria.

As the one year mark approaches and old imagery resurfaces in the news and in social media, local tourism and community members are rallying audiences everywhere, including news media, to #CoverTheProgress and share real-time Island imagery and the many milestones that have led the Island in one of the greatest comeback stories in tourism.

This initiative stemmed from the strong sentiment of the local community paired with reactions from recent travellers to Puerto Rico. Tourism benefits everyone on the Island, and sharing the positive milestones achieved within the tourism industry will help continue to attract travellers – helping to drive the recovery forward, says the island's tourism authorities.

“Six months after Hurricane Maria hit, more than 50 percent of travellers said media coverage negatively impacted their view of Puerto Rico as a destination and we’re hoping to change that as the one year anniversary approaches.

Puerto Rico declared itself open for tourism in late December, and the local tourism industry has worked very hard for the past year to come back strong. There’s a lot to celebrate and we don’t want the one year anniversary to set us back,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.

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“While there’s still progress to be made in some areas of the Island, we’re asking for the vibrancy of Puerto Rico as a tourism destination to also be shared and for the milestones the local industry and communities worked hard to achieve to be celebrated. We’re taking this moment to encourage all audiences to help us spotlight our tourism recovery and invite travellers to visit us as tourism is a vital contributor to the economy.”

As part of this initiative, local members of Humacao – one of the Island’s hardest hit communities that became well known for the S.O.S. image that went viral in the immediate aftermath of the storm – have a message to share. They came together with the local tourism industry to replace the aerial image in hopes that this image also goes viral. This time, the message reads: “Bienvenidos!”

“Being on the Island and completely disconnected, we didn’t realise how far our picture travelled. We’re thankful it did. But now, we’re ready to turn the page. We’ve been wanting to clean up that message for a while as we’re past it. We were asked what message we’d want to share with the world and hope our new positive message spreads just as fast,” said Janet Gonzalez,a resident of Humacao.

The following are among the many tourism milestones achieved:

  • Arrivals by Air and by Sea. 
    • Flight capacity is on the rise with monthly seat capacity surpassing the 420,000 figure. There are currently on average 110 daily flights via 28 different airlines, and relationships with airlines continue to drive growth. By Q4, the destination is poised to make a full turnaround and be on par with 2017 levels. 
    • Puerto Rico has more cruises on the Island than ever before with 14 vessels – which is four more vessels than last year. The Island also has 119 cruise shore excursions for travelers to enjoy.
    • In fact, cruise tourism in May turned out to be the best results for that month in the last 20 years, with 107,390 cruise passengers received. This was 12.9% higher than the 95,139 cruise passengers who visited in May last year.
    • All-in-all, for the next cruising season, a record breaking $1.7 million passengers are expected, which equates to approximately $250 million in revenue.
  • The Return of Luxury. 
    • Puerto Rico currently offers 132 diverse lodging options. Next month, travelers will have even more choices with iconic luxury hotels reopening after taking the time to renovate and new hotels opening their doors.
    • In October, 657 new rooms will be available from the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton and The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort. In December, 480 new rooms will be available from Meliá Coco Beach. And, in January, an additional 652 new rooms will be available from Caribe Hilton. Additional revamping includes El Conquistador Resort, a Waldorf Astoria Resort and The Ritz-Carlton San Juan.
    • The investment in new hotel development equates to $1.9 billion, which adds another 2,900 jobs locally.
  • What’s Next in Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE). 
    • Puerto Rico is already a prime destination for hosting Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events. Coming next year is District LIVE!, a five acre hospitality and entertainment district built in partnership between Island Hospitality Partners and the Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority. This complex is destined to be the most vibrant and popular setting for events, conventions and performances of all types in the Caribbean region.
  • Destination Attractions to Discover. 
    • Puerto Rico offers over 189 tourist attractions, including walking tours through Old San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Castillo San Cristobal and the Bacardi Distillery. The Island also offers salsa tours that visit famous places to dance your heart out, caving systems like Cueva Ventana, Toro Verde Adventure Park and El Yunque rainforest – the largest rainforest in the U.S. While nature takes its course, many trails of El Yunque are already open – including the Angelito Trail, La Coca Falls and the Yakahu Tower. 
    • The islands of Culebra and Vieques are ready to welcome visitors, too. Culebra is home to Flamenco Beach, recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There are day excursions to the islands if you are staying in mainland Puerto Rico.
    • The bioluminescent bays are an experience not to miss, and Puerto Rico has three of the world’s five. The reflection of microorganisms causes the water to glow when touched. Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays are located in Mosquito Bay in Vieques; Laguna Grande in Fajardo; and La Parguera in Lajas.
    • There are plenty of culinary options with more than 1,885 restaurants across the Island, including Culebra and Vieques. Puerto Rico is a foodie’s paradise.
    • For those looking for golf and added entertainment, the Island offers 13 professional golf courses, 16 casinos and plenty of nightlife options like bars and clubs.