The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association’s Marketplace, held Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2018 in San Juan, featured updates on Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria. Here’s what tourism officials want you to know:
Puerto Rico reopened to tourists Dec. 20, 2017. In January, 110 daily flights into San Juan provided 391,000 seats, and by July there’ll be yet another 81,000 seats, so “capacity of airlift will be on par with 2017 levels,” said Carla Campos, acting executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
Most Hotels Have Reopened
Of about 150 approved hotels, 120 are open for business, accounting for roughly 12,500 out of 15,000 rooms. Campos told this reporter that the other 2,670 rooms will be revamped, and that includes the ones at long-neglected El Conquistador. Some of El San Juan’s recent $60 million renovation work was undone, but Campos promised that the hotel will be restored and will reopen this fall, as will the Ritz-Carlton Reserve. New hotels in the pipeline include a J.W. Marriott, Serafina, two Aloft hotels, and a Four Seasons Cayo. The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf Resort will reopen March 1—tennis, golf courses, 7,000-sq.-ft. spa center, new dining options, and all. General manager Nils Stolzlechner confided, “We have a staff that came in a day after the storm to save the resort…For me, this is a very emotional thing.”
Campos said that after Hurricane Maria, only “22 attractions were open. Now there are 120.” Tourism draws that are back in business include “13 golf courses, 15 casinos, and about 4,000 restaurants, 1,500 of which are in the San Juan area.” El Yunque’s infrastructure is still under repair, but people can visit Vieques and Culebra again.
The Shipping News
“More than 400,000 passengers arrived Oct. 7 through the end of January, and another 633,000 will come by June 30,” said Campos. “We are forecasting that the next season (2018-2019) will be record breaking, with 1.7 million passengers.”
Michele Paige, president of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, said, “All parties have worked tirelessly together to bring back tourism sooner than expected.” Indeed, in November San Juan will host the annual FCCA Cruise Conference and Trade Show, the largest cruise conference in the Caribbean.
“Puerto Rico will recover better and stronger,” declared Campos. “I would encourage you to come and see [the travel industry’s recovery] for yourself. Puerto Rico is not just ready but eager. And the best way to help Puerto Rico is to come to Puerto Rico.”
For a comprehensive guide to which hotels and attractions are open, as well as other important and detailed information, see puertoriconow.seepuertorico.com. For an account of this reporter’s observations outside the Convention Center, see Part 2 of this story.