The Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association is urging Gov. Wanda Vázquez to allow expanded tourism-related activities in the next executive order to enable “thousands of employees to return to their workplaces and in this way start moving the economy.”
During a news conference, members of the island’s hotel sector called for the opening of recreational and entertainment facilities that are part of the tourism activity, while ensuring that the industry is ready with all necessary measures to prevent an increase in contagions by the COVID-19.
“We’re making a call so that our claims are included in the measures to be taken, since it has been nearly six months of the pandemic and we have to find a balance between the health of the people and the health of our economy,” PRHTA Chair Pablo Torres said.
The current Executive Order, which expires Sept. 11, bans the operation of common areas in hotels, such as pools, casinos and places where people may gather. The use of public beaches is also banned, unless it is for individual exercise.
“It’s well known that the contagions that are happening have nothing to do with tourist activity on the island,” he said. “It has been months since practically all economic movement in hotels, casinos, excursions, Destination Management Companies, among many other components of tourism on the Island, has stopped,” said Torres.
The group is asking for hotels to be allowed to reopen casinos, swimming pools and hot tubs for guests. Restaurants want the elimination of the alcohol ban, to reopen on Sundays, and to be allowed to operate at 75% capacity. The sector also wants to resume excursions, and tours with limited groups, and the reopening of attractions.
The PRHTA also brought up the issue of effectively implement the controls already agreed to at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport to minimize cases at the point of arrival, isolation and quarantine, mainly of travelers with local relatives (friends, family and relatives), and local residents who are traveling to places of high incidence of cases, including Florida and Texas.
“Our workforce has been the hardest hit. Tourism in Puerto Rico accounts for more than 80,000 direct and indirect jobs,” Torres said, estimating that 80% of them are jobless.
“Many were on temporary suspension, automatically dismissed three months later, and after six months employers are not obliged to reinstate them,” he said.
This is not the first time the PRHTA has stated its position to Vázquez, to whom they have sent six letters in recent months, outlining their recommendations as a trade group and as an industry “to achieve harmony among sectors.”
The PRHTA has more than 400 corporate partners, including: hotels (large, medium and small); casinos; and, restaurants. It also has allied partners such as: airlines; transportation companies; attractions; villas; tour operators; suppliers of goods and services to the hospitality industry; cruise lines; and educational institutions, among others.
“The security measures established by our partners are top notch. Our partners, the vast majority of the members of the tourist activity, have made a titanic investment to comply with the necessary protocols, and in many cases exceed the minimum requirements, to have an effective, healthy and appropriate operation to receive all kinds of public, while protecting the health of all employees,” PRHTA CEO Clarisa Jiménez said.
“Investment in materials, equipment, reconfiguration of public areas and the retraining of the workforce has been a gigantic task, to start operating in compliance with the highest levels of security, following parameters of local, federal and even brand organizations that govern many of our partners’ operations,” she said.
“For all of those reasons, I want to reaffirm that we’re ready to start operating, contributing to the economy and having a robust workforce,” she said.