As part of the activities to commemorate World Tourism Day on Sept. 27, the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. published a schedule of official activities to mark the occasion.
These activities will be held in the upcoming weeks and showcase “Tourism and Rural Development,” the theme chosen by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for the 40th anniversary of the celebration.
This year’s international celebration is especially important as it arrives at a critical moment in history, when countries all over the world are reevaluating the importance of rural tourism offerings as an option to lead the recovery of local tourism sectors; in particular those offering activities that allow people to enjoy nature and the outdoors while practicing safe distancing and recommended health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Never before has tourism and rural development had such a central role. Rural tourism offers key opportunities in the economic recovery process and it is crucial to support rural communities going through the economic and social effects of this pandemic.
“Although the tourism industry is facing unprecedented challenges on a global scale, Puerto Rico does have a competitive edge that makes the immediate reactivation of its tourism sector viable; two of these are first, the fact that the island is one of the few destinations with an industry-specific program [created and overseen by Puerto Rico Tourism Co.] and second, its robust rural tourism offering which allows local and international visitors to participate in outdoor recreational activities in a safe and responsible manner outside the urban areas and reconnect with nature,” said Tourism Co. Executive Director Carla Campos.
“At the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., we’re showcasing these types of projects because we’re aware of their potential to create diverse and inclusive jobs in Puerto Rico,” she said.
Among the programs the Tourism Co. has created to promote the development of rural tourism are the Agrotourism Certification Program and the Community-Based Sustainable Tourism Program, overseen by the agency’s Sustainable Tourism division.
At present, there are 26 certified agrotourism projects throughout the island. The variety of sites that both residents and visitors can visit in a safe and secure manner include coffee and cacao haciendas, as well as specialized farmsteads that grow and harvest local products.
The agency also lends its support to six community-based tourism projects that provide outdoor and nature/adventure activities and are run by local community organizations.
“We invite the general public to learn more about and support these and other flagship projects that showcase our natural and cultural heritage. With this purpose in mind, we’ve scheduled virtual tours in our Voy Turisteando social platforms, as well as a series of webinars on basic sustainable tourism practices and principles” said Campos.
Campos recently visited seven sites in the Porta Cordillera mountain region to get to know first-hand the needs of rural tourism operations, validate the compliance of measures mandated by the PRTC Health and Safety Program and facilitate access to vital resources needed to reopen tourism activities.
“At the beginning of this week we visited small businesses in Cayey, Adjuntas, Jayuya, Ciales, and Orocovis and were able to corroborate that the responsible reactivation of our industry is vital to save hundreds of small businesses and jobs that depend on tourism for their livelihood,” she said.
“We encourage all Puerto Ricans to enjoy domestic tourism in a responsible manner while, at the same time, supporting rural tourism businesses” added Campos.
The UNWTO and the Tourism Co. predict that domestic tourism — product of tourism activity generated by residents — will resume before international tourism, which could benefit rural communities, especially if measures are implemented to safeguard each individual’s health and local economic activity is promoted.
In line with these forecasts, the local agency is moving forward on the implementation of the Puerto Rico Tourism Industry Recovery Plan presented Sept. 2nd, which proposes a gradual and phased reopening of tourism and recognizes the importance of the immediate reopening of domestic tourism activity as a balm for hundreds of small businesses that have faced the complete halt of their operations due to COVID-19.
Schedule of Activities
Agrotourism Virtual Tour—HidroOrgánica Farm, Río Grande
Time: 4 p.m.
Webinar – “Climate Change — Origin, Sustainability and the Impact of Our Carbon Footprint”
Time: 10 a.m.
Speaker: Professor Rubén Rodríguez, University of Puerto Rico
Registration Link: https://tinyurl.com/y6asd582
Nature/Adventure Virtual Tour — Las Cabachuelas Natural Reserve, Morovis
Time: 4 p.m.
Host: Patria Tours Puerto Rico
Cultural Virtual Tour — Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center, Ponce
Time: 10 a.m.
Host: Isla Caribe Tours
Cultural Virtual Tour — Hacienda Iluminada, Maricao
Time: 4 p.m.
Host: Sam Sepúlveda, Owner
Webinar — “The Reinvention of Businesses in the COVID-19 Pandemic (Discussion Panel)”
A conversation during which owners of Tourism Co.-certified agrotourism businesses will share their experiences, attitudes, successes and obstacles during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Time: 3 p.m.
Panelists: San Juan Artisan Distillers, Península del Río, and HidrOrgánica (Agrotourism Projects)
Registration Link: https://tinyurl.com/y4g6jpjf
Webinar — “Community Resilience and the Recovery Process” (Discussion Panel)
Community-based organizations, leaders and volunteers share their stories of resilience, strength and adaptability in the face of adversity.
Time: 3 p.m.
Panelists: Comunidad Toro Negro, Inc., Comité Pro-Desarrollo de Maunabo and COSSAO
Registration Link: https://tinyurl.com/y4at2tvv
(Activities will be available only in Spanish)