Puerto Rico sees surge in tourism levels

By The Star Staff

The island tourism industry is recovering in leaps and bounds, according to numbers provided Tuesday by Discover Puerto Rico.

Hotel bookings have surpassed the 60% mark and are expected to increase further in April and May.

The increase in the number of tourists has been attributed to a combination of U.S. residents wanting to escape cold weather, cheap airfare and the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

It was also attributed to media advertising. Discover Puerto Rico received $15.8 million in funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to promote the island as a safe place to visit, and about $25 million in Community Development Block Grant funds.

Alicia Valentine, Discover Puerto Rico’s director of research and analytics, said hotel bookings for February were 50% higher than in February 2020, before the pandemic began, due to the Valentine’s Day and President’s Day celebrations. They were 13% higher than Christmas week. The numbers surpassed bookings registered in Mexico and other Caribbean destinations.

The highest number of bookings for April and May are for three-star and four-star hotels, officials said.

Rental bookings were 82% higher year over year, they said.

A survey done by Discover Puerto Rico also showed that 96% of those surveyed expressed a willingness to book Puerto Rico for meetings, with 14% of those having plans underway to do so, Valentine said.

The surge in tourism has not been impacted by the bad publicity caused by videos circulating on social media showing aggressive tourists starting fights, misbehaving in public or refusing to wear face masks. The media has been focused on the arrival of spring breakers in Florida.

“So far this has not had significant pickup in the mainland, in the media,” said Leah Chandler, CMO for Discover Puerto Rico. “So it is something that the consumers are not seeing.”

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