The Puerto Rico Tourism Alliance denounced that the efforts to reopen the industry “lack a defined strategy that guarantees a successful and safe return,” after months of a stand-still of the tourism sector due to the health crisis caused by COVID-19.
The Alliance said July would be the right time to lift social distancing restrictions and restart the local tourist offer.
“That tourist offer, even for locals, must be complete. Hotels must be able to open swimming pools, restaurants, casinos and, of course, the beaches,” said Alliance member Daphne Barbeito, president of Cruises To Go.
“Also, tour guides and tour operators must be ready to offer their services. As for the cruise lines, we must focus to begin in-transit and homeport visits in September,” Barbeito said.
The group expressed concern after hearing Tourism Company Executive Director Carla Campos “speak vaguely” on a local radio station, about the steps to reopen the industry.
“We agree that the impact to the industry has been devastating and that it will take time for us to recover, but it is highly worrying that guidelines without details of execution are being presented,” the professional organization’s President José Poupal said.
“We’re also concerned that, due to pressure from some companies, very important elements are not taken into consideration, which have been ignored, to ensure the return is truly a success,” he said.
“When we analyze the guidelines the Puerto Rico Tourism Company presented last week, it is basically a summary of recommendations from various entities such as the Centers for Disease Control, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization,” he said.
“Unfortunately, what’s unknown is how the different industry components will implement the guidelines. We also don’t know the government’s medical team’s or the governor’s stance is in this regard, both of which are vital to this conversation,” he added.
The trade organization said none of its members have been contacted for a training that is supposedly scheduled for this month related to the reopening process. The Alliance suggested conducting virtual trainings for employees identified by their employers, after which they would get a compliance certificate and tested to move on to site inspection tasks.
Campos said the Tourism Co.’s Tourist Quality Department will be responsible for health inspections. The division’s limited staff will have to also pass a training session.
The Alliance also charged that during the interview, Campos made no reference to areas such as air and maritime access.
“Without them, there’s no demand, there’s no tourism. It’s vital that they are included in the conversation from now on to ask for support to implement best practices from both sectors,” said Luis Malavé, of the Puerto Rico Dock Employees Union.
“The responsibility of controlling the risk of contagion cannot be exclusively up to local industry the components, everybody must pitch in,” he said.
Prior to lifting social distancing restrictions in place through May 25, for now, guidelines must be in place establishing how airlines and cruise lines will address controlling contagion.
Although the volume of international passengers is “negligible,” the Alliance recommended that international flights not be resumed until the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.