Puerto Rico After the Storm
How the Caribbean island plans to grow tourism post–Hurricane Maria.
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria hammered Puerto Rico, causing more than $90 billion in damages, according to estimates by local officials. While more than 400,000 of Puerto Rico’s electricity customers were still without power as of the end of January 2018, it was expected that 95% of power would have been restored by early March. As repairs continue, tourism is being promoted as one way to help fund recovery efforts.
Timeshare resorts and the Puerto Rican Tourism Company (PRTC) are working together to bring travelers to the island. “PRTC is cooperating with the timeshare industry and requesting that hotels provide specials for the upcoming seasons,” says Rich Hartnett, CEO of ESJ Collection, a group of resorts in Puerto Rico. In addition, PRTC is helping resorts communicate with potential travelers about recovery efforts, openings and places that are back in business.
Communication is key. John Dishinger, director of business development for RCI, recommends that resorts share their current status on their websites and social media platforms. ESJ Towers, part of the ESJ Collection, sends a weekly email update to owners. While some travelers may desire voluntourism opportunities to aid in the recovery, Dishinger advises instead donating to local charities and allowing emergency aid workers such as FEMA to continue their efforts.
Although there’s still far to go, the outlook is positive. “As the local economy restarts, the optimism is obvious among the workers,” Hartnett says. Dishinger notes that travelers can still expect beautiful beaches and water: “By summer, the majority of tourist areas will be open, with the city of San Juan already functioning over 70 percent.”
Image credit: Sojern