Skift Take

Puerto Rico's tourism industry is back on track just shy of two years after Hurricane Maria, but the kind of civil unrest happening in San Juan this week is never great for tourism.

In the days since more than 800 pages of leaked chat logs revealed incendiary and offensive comments from Governor Ricardo Rosselló and his deputies, Puerto Ricans have taken to the streets of Old San Juan calling for his ouster.

Demonstrations turned heated on Wednesday evening, when protestors overturned barricades and police fired tear gas into the crowds, according to CNN reporting. The governor is refusing to resign, instead saying, “I apologize for what I’ve done but again, I need to move forward and continue on the work we’re doing for Puerto Rico.”

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló Source: Michael Deibert, ©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

In response to this unrest, Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination marketing organization, issued a statement Wednesday saying that while travelers should avoid El Capitolio and Fortaleza, where protests are taking place, other areas of San Juan remain unaffected. While emphasizing the island is “open for business,” they recommend travelers take precautions while traveling in Old San Juan.

“We are working with our tourism partners to keep them up to date with the information,” Discover Puerto Rico said in a statement. “Airports and taxi services are operating normally, as are tourist attractions and hotels, and multiple flights and cruises are scheduled to arrive in Puerto Rico each day. Travelers should check with area businesses and travel providers regarding operations and should allow additional time for travel, as there may be delays.”

The DMO added that they respect the rights of the individuals to protest “in a peaceful and lawful manner.”

While civil unrest is never a boon for a tourist destination — particularly during the peak summer vacation period — Puerto Rico’s tourism industry is in better shape than some observers expected in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which struck the island just shy of two years ago. In early July, the DMO celebrated its first anniversary with the news that tourism to the island was peaking. Between January and April, the island received 1.67 million arrivals across the San Juan, Ponce, and Aguadilla airports, the highest first quarter figures in the island’s history according to Aerostar Airport Holdings. Spending revenue had also peaked, with $445 million reported through May.

The World Travel and Tourism Council had previously estimated it would take until 2021-2022 for Puerto Rico to make a full recovery. The DMO credits consistent brand positioning, tactics to counter negative perception, and revamped digital marketing efforts with aiding the faster recovery.

Disclosure: Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali serves on the 25-member advisory board to Destination Puerto Rico, as part of Skift Foundation‘s commitment to helping Puerto Rico in its tourism recovery.


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Tags: discover puerto rico, hurricane maria, puerto rico, tourism

Photo credit: Puerto Rico fort Skift

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