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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

January data offers hopeful signs for PR travel industry

Discover Puerto Rico CEO Brad Dean

By The Star Staff

Lower COVID-19 case rates and the easing of restrictions improved travel confidence, and lodging reservations resumed rapidly, signaling promising economic recovery, Discover Puerto Rico officials said on Wednesday.

TravelClick data shows that by the end of January, hotel reservations for the second quarter were 17% higher compared to January 2020 before the pandemic became a worldwide concern.

Likewise, AirDNA’s January data suggests that in the case of short rentals, reservations for the second quarter are 329% over 2020 pre-pandemic levels.

“This positive trend is the result of a collaborative effort between Discover Puerto Rico, the Tourism Company and all the components of this sector, which in the face of adversity have not stopped working hard to keep the tourism industry afloat,” said José “Peco” Suårez, president of Discover Puerto Rico’s board of directors, at a news conference.

“While we are still feeling the impact of the pandemic and its recent variants, I’m encouraged by several positive signs,” Discover Puerto Rico CEO Brad Dean said. “As you know all too well, the high season has been severely disrupted. Yet, the booking pace for the spring has improved substantially since health and safety protocols were relaxed.”

The omicron variant affected reservations during December and January. Still, as cases subside, reservations have gained traction and are on their way toward typical levels, the officials said.

The rebound in reservations points to the growth trend exhibited by Puerto Rico’s tourism industry during 2021, a record year for lodging income and room tax collections.

For instance, short-term rentals show a 20% growth in bookings during this year’s second quarter, compared to what was booked by the end of January 2020.

High lodging revenues came from increases in passenger arrivals and a surge in demand for lodging venues. This led to an increase in hotel room prices and short-term rentals. Puerto Rico outperformed other Caribbean destinations, bringing in revenue per available room at a 51% higher rate than the average for the region.

Airline Data Inc. projected that the number of domestic commercial airline seats available to and from Puerto Rico will increase 10% during the remainder of the fiscal year, compared with 2021. Extended air capacity connects San Juan with New York; Orlando, Fla.; Washington, D.C.; Hartford, Conn.; Atlantic City, N.J.; Austin, Texas; Jacksonville, Fla.; and St. Louis.

“Still facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 had a positive balance in the recovery of air access in Puerto Rico,” said Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC) Executive Director Carlos Mercado. “Likewise, as a result of the negotiations and efforts of the Government of Puerto Rico with our airline partners, routes to new destinations were added.”

“Among our immediate plans, we remain focused on continuing to expand the offer of non-stop routes, both at the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport and at the regional airports of Ponce and Aguadilla,” he said. “Puerto Rico has implemented health and safety protocols that have served as an example for other destinations, which demonstrates our commitment to serving as a facilitating agent in the recovery of tourism and the visitor economy.”

International air capacity is also increasing with additional seats in Colombia, Panama and Spain, the officials said. The increase in international commercial airline seats is at 91%. At this point in time, pre-pandemic international travel accounts for 11% of passenger activity at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, they said.

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