Puerto Rico Tourism Co. vows to get tough with unruly tourists
The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. is working with municipal authorities in the towns of San Juan and Carolina to crack down on the unruly behavior displayed by groups of visitors to the island, some of which have made the rounds on social media in recent months.
Tourism Co. Executive Director Carlos Mercado confirmed in an interview with this media outlet that the plan is to boost security in tourist hotspots like Old San Juan, Condado and Isla Verde, to enforce the conditions established in the government’s Executive Order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Among other things, tourists and residents alike are mandated to wear facemasks at all times, abide by a curfew, and avoid crowding and drinking in outdoor public spaces.
“We’re having meetings to discuss the behavior we’ve seen in recent months and are coordinating with the Municipality of San Juan to add more police monitoring,” said Mercado, who Gov. Pedro Pierluisi appointed to the post earlier this week.
As part of the strategy, the Tourism Co. is setting up tourist orientation and safety checkpoint booths to have closer contact with visitors. The first booth is already up at the Ventana al Mar park in Condado, and more are planned, Mercado said.
“We’re finishing up a Memorandum of Understanding with the Municipality of Carolina to do the same thing and install security checkpoints in the areas where they believe they’re most needed in Isla Verde,” he added. “Old San Juan is already under discussion with City Hall and its Economic Development office to have something up in coming weeks.”
These steps are being taken in anticipation of an expected upswing in tourism from the US mainland as the weather gets colder in the northeast in coming months and the start of Spring Break travel.
“The truth is if we’re pretty strict about making locals comply with the rules, then I think it should be the same for tourists,” he said.
One of the concerns voiced in recent months is the fact that airlines are selling very cheap flights to Puerto Rico, which has drawn a specific type of visitor. While the local government cannot regulate or mandate airlines to change their business strategies, Mercado said the Tourism Co. has held conversations with them.
“We’ve been in direct contact with the airlines, trying to work on the business relationship and expose our concerns. But it’s a field that the local government cannot regulate, but we can be proactive with tourists, so they don’t say later that they didn’t know the rules,” he said.
“We’ll be offering orientation to tourists arriving at the airport, providing the necessary documents so they’re clear on the rules and also what they expose themselves to if they violate them,” said Mercado.