SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico tourism officials provided an update on the status of the island during a press conference at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace in San Juan.
Carla Campos, acting executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, and other Puerto Rico officials, including Secretary of State Luis Rivera-Marin, who was featured on the cover of our sister publication, Luxury Travel Advisor, back in 2012, gave attendees of the conference a full, up-to-date destination assessment following back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, this September.
Here are the latest statistics:
Campos says 120 of the 150 hotels that reported damage are now reopened. She also added that 12,458 rooms are currently available in inventory with 2,670 rooms currently being “revamped.”
“By quarter three and quarter four we will be inaugurating some amazing renovations,” says Campos, noting that 25 percent more rooms, which will represent roughly 300 jobs, are currently in the pipeline.
One of those properties, Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is currently slated to reopen October 1.
Also, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort has announced it will reopen on March 1 following its closure after Hurricane Maria. El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton partially reopened on December 4, but is only currently open for relief workers. It will fully reopen its doors on October 1 after closing in September following the impact of Hurricane Maria. The 388-room property is undergoing a restoration of its guest rooms, oceanfront villas, public spaces, pools and outdoor landscaping. We were told the renovation represents an investment of $65 million.
Campos told media that 410,000 cruise passengers traveled through the San Juan port since October 7 and that 633,000 more passengers are expected by June 30. Campos also noted that 1.8 million cruise passengers, which will be a record breaking number of cruise passengers for Puerto Rico, are expected for the 2018-2019 cruise season. It will represent about $250 million. The previous record was set in 2013 when 1.5 million cruise passengers called in Puerto Rico.
"We are projecting 1.8 million passengers this [cruise season], but we know that number will hit over two million," says Micelle Paige, president of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA). "This year is looking to be the best year yet in Puerto Rico. We need to educate the cruise industry and show passengers all of Puerto Rico's products so they will say, 'Wow, Puerto Rico is amazing. Let's come back here and stay at a hotel.'"
Campos reports that there are now 110 daily flights to San Juan. She said 391,000 seats reopened in January. By July, she said Puerto Rico is expecting to receive another 81,000 seats. Campos said air capacity will be on par with 2017 numbers by May.
“The natural loss in capacity that results in a hurricane was expected, but we are increasing it at a rapid pace,” she says. “Communicating with airlines and strategizing was very important. If we had one plane coming in, we wanted the largest plane instead of frequency of flights and, because of that, we were able to increase capacity.”
Campos says 22 attractions were open right after hurricane and now 120 attractions are currently open. She also says 15 casinos, 13 golf courses and more than 4,000 restaurants are open. As far as one of Puerto Rico’s most popular attractions go, the El Yunque National Forest is expected to be completely open by the end of the year with a small percentage of the forest already opened, says Campos.
Rivera-Marin: We Will be More Prepared
Although it is unfortunately inevitable that Puerto Rico, like the majority of Caribbean islands, will see another hurricane in the future, Riviera-Marin says advisors and clients should at least know that Puerto Rico will be more prepared.
“All the lessons learned will help us devise an emergency management plan,” says Rivera-Marin, “Instead of starting from zero, we will be starting from 40 or 50 as far as implementing recovery efforts [in the event of another hurricane].”