Puerto Rico plans to welcome back tourists by December
In spite of damage from Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican travel officials say they are hopeful that tourists will return to the islands in December, the beginning of the high tourist season. Many of the island’s hotels remain closed, and hundreds of businesses are without power, but tourism officials are optimistic that the tourists, a major part of the country’s economy, will return this year.
Puerto Rico was battered in recent months by back-to-back hurricanes and recovery appears to be moving at a snail’s pace. Nonetheless, the island hopes to be back in the business of tourism by Christmas.
Jose Izquierdo, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, told USA Today. Even though much of the island remains without power and the country’s primary focus is on rebuilding, Izquierdo said he hopes that the island will be open for tourism by December 20, in time for the December-May high tourist season in the Caribbean.
Cruise lines have announced plans to resume sailing to the island in November. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dawn will resume sailing from San Juan on a revised seven-day itinerary. Cruise lines have even offered travel agents a $50 bonus commission on San Juan cruises booked after October 5.
Both Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean have plans to make San Juan calls beginning on November 30. Both cruise lines expect that the capital city will have transportation and electricity readily available at that time. Carnival Cruise Lines has also announced plans to resume sailing from San Juan in February of 2018.
In air travel news, Izquierdo also told USA Today that the island’s airports are operational. Numerous airlines, including Southwest Airlines, Delta, American Airlines, and Jet Blue, are continuing to offer flexible rebooking policies for flights to Puerto Rico through April of next year.
Since the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, tourism in Puerto Rico has plummeted. The island’s economy has struggled in recent years, and tourism is one of the only things keeping Puerto Rico afloat. The island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria will depend largely on the strength of the tourism sector.
At present, it’s difficult to imagine that tourists will be back as soon as December, when the high travel season begins for the Caribbean. Roughly one-third of Puerto Rico’s hotels are closed, restaurants and shops are still without power, and swimming at beaches is prohibited for fear of water contamination. Puerto Rico usually sees 5 million visitors per year and they spend close to $4 billion.
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