Discover Puerto Rico: We’re open for business travel : Travel Weekly

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SAN JUAN — Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 storm that hit the southwest corner of Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, was “a setback for us, but not a reset,” according to Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto. Rico.

Areas affected on Fiona’s path stretched from Ponce on the south coast to Rincon on the west coast. The whole island lost power, which was restored within days in metropolitan areas.

“There was a temporary disruption in San Juan due to the storm, but less than 24 hours later Luis Munoz Marin Airport reopened, followed by Ponce Airport on September 22 and cruise ports on September 22. next day,” Dean said, speaking to a reporter at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Marketplace event.

Most hotels in the affected areas have reopened, including the Holiday Inn, Hilton and the At altitude in Ponce.

Even some of the smaller properties, if they have generators, are operational, like the 50-room Combate Beach Resort on the western end of the island, according to Dean.

Puerto Rico: “Ready to welcome all”

“From a visitor perspective, Puerto Rico’s beaches, restaurants, attractions and accommodations are ready to welcome everyone,” Dean said. “We are excited about the rapid pace of this recovery, and we haven’t lost any bookings after Fiona. Most customers have simply rescheduled their visits but not cancelled.”

Enid Montes, director of sales and marketing at the 255-room Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort, reported no major damage to Fiona’s suite. “We were closed for a week because we had no power and also to clean up debris on the property,” she said.

“Everything is now normal: our golf course and casino are open, our electricity is back and we are operating at 100% occupancy,” Montes said. “There is still repair work going on in some of the nearby towns, but anyone driving from San Juan to Ponce will find the roads in good condition.”

The Ponce and Mayaguez Holiday Inns suffered minimal damage and are open, according to Liz Mari, sales manager. The damage was related to the debris and, initially, to the lack of power.

The annual Marketplace kicked off here on October 3. Dean pointed out that Marketplace was the first event to take place in Puerto Rico after Fiona — just as it was the first event to take place after Hurricane Maria crippled the island in 2017.

The CHTA had asked conference delegates who had more room in their luggage to bring supplies to donate to area schools, such as coloring books, pens, paper and art supplies. In addition, local businesses in the San Juan area were donating canned goods, flashlights, tarps, blankets and hygiene supplies to distribute to homes affected by Fiona.

Strong tourism year for Puerto Rico

Dean said he was optimistic for a “strong peak season”.

From January to July, the number of visitors to Puerto Rico exceeded the first half of 2019 and 2021. Visitors were staying longer and spending more, according to Dean. The island was heading for a banner year until Fiona.

“We launched our ‘Live Boricua’ campaign in May, which showcases the authenticity and culture of the island,” he said. “As we emerged from the pandemic, we saw that consumers yearned to engage with the local community, with faces, not places.”

The campaign aims to connect the visitor with everyday Puerto Ricans and participate in their celebrations and leisure activities so that “the visitor arrives as a guest but leaves as a friend”, according to Dean.

Along with the “Live Boricua” campaign, Discover Puerto Rico has its eye on niche travel growth opportunities, targeting craft beer, culinary tourism, off-the-beaten-path activities and “ed-venture tourism”, experiences that Dean said “enlighten and entertain.”

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