Puerto Rico’s tourism is on the rebound
Despite a perilous 2016 for tourism in Puerto Rico with the spread of the Zika Virus, the islands were able to hold respectable figures for one of its most important industries and projects a similar trend continue in the years ahead. The main issue Puerto Rico had to contend with was the public relations issue surrounding the Zika virus in the media. To combat misinformation, The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) launched an educational outreach program in February 2016 to dissipate fears about Zika called ‘Facts not Fear’. Collaborating with the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, the PRTC fought against the Zika misinformation with a compelling message. The PRTC communicated that Zika was not growing nearly as rapidly as the CDC had projected, emphasizing the reality that reported cases were a fraction of what was projected. Cases are now at about 1 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million-person population versus forecasts that 25% of Puerto Ricans would eventually have the virus by the end of the 2016.
The campaign seemed to have been effective. Total hotel registrations between January and September 2016 were 1.6% above the 2015 level and non-resident hotel registrations were 1.4% above the record-breaking year. 10 million passengers were welcomed by Puerto Rico airports by the end of 2016, 11 new airlines have arrived in the last 3 years, and over half a million new inbound seats, including from Iberia and Allegiant Airlines started service in 2016. Hotels collected an incremental $2 million in tax revenue, a 137% growth from 2012. 70.4% hotel occupancy in 2015-16 reported from Jan.-August compared to 67.9% in 2012. 1.5 million Cruise passengers arrived to Puerto Rico in 2015 with 1.6 million passengers expected in 2017-18.
Tourism has long been a vital source of wealth for Puerto Rico. Tourism annually contributes nearly $4 billion to Puerto Rico’s economy. In 2018, tourism will take increased focus in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico will host the 2018 edition of Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the Caribbean’s largest marketing event for international travel and tourism at the Puerto Rico Convention Center from January 30 to February 1, 2018. The Caribbean Travel Marketplace gives tourism suppliers the opportunity to meet face-to-face with wholesalers from around the world who sell Caribbean vacation travel packages over the course of two days of business meetings.
The Caribbean Travel Marketplace event next year will feature two days of business meetings that match hotels and destinations with online travel agents, tour operators and Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) planners through a program of thousands of pre-scheduled appointments. The event is sponsored by a number of high profile sponsors from around the Caribbean and the globe, including Mastercard, JetBlue Vacations, Delta Airlines, The New York Times, Washington Post, and travAlliance Media.
In 2017, the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, hosted by The Bahamas, attracted 114 buyer companies from 20 countries. Over 1,100 delegates from 31 countries participated in more than 10,000 pre-scheduled appointments. Puerto Rican officials have hailed the conference as an important step to centering the island at the heart of the Caribbean tourism, Miguel Vega, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association said, “Caribbean Travel Marketplace is a marquee event that provides an excellent opportunity for stakeholders here to network with some of the world’s leading travel professionals and, more importantly, share what we offer on our islands to the world.”
In a joint statement, President Karolin Troubetzkoy and CEO Frank Comito of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) said: “We look forward to returning to Puerto Rico and partnering with both the public and private sectors in such an incredibly welcoming destination.” As Puerto Rico navigates its troubled fiscal situation, tourism will remain an important element in the economic vitality of the commonwealth. Holding the Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Puerto Rico is a significant indication of where Puerto Rico would like to situate itself in the regional tourism industry of the Caribbean. Puerto Rico will try to remain a centerpiece tourist destination in the region and internationally.