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Puerto Rico’s booking demand up by 12% in first half of ’23

Puerto Rico’s tourism industry continued to grow in the first seven months of the year, driven by a demand that was 12% above 2022, a record year in such areas as lodging income, tax collections, visitor spending and employment in leisure and hospitality, said Brad Dean, the CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination marketing organization. 

The increase for hotels was 9%, and for short-term rentals, it was 17%. This allowed the industry to capture more lodging income in the first six months of the year than in 2019, he said. 

“These 2023 results validate the destination marketing organization model as a promoter of economic development and show what can be achieved when the industry joins efforts. It also puts us in a strong position to address the challenges that lie ahead for the travel industry,” Dean said during an industry update report presented at Ana G. Méndez University’s (UAGM) Carolina campus.

“This is why it’s important to have marketing strategies guided by data and free of considerations outside the best interests of the whole industry. That is essential for the prosperity of business, but, more importantly, for the creation of more and better jobs for all Puerto Ricans,” Dean said.

During the event, Erik Evjen, executive vice president of Tourism Economics, presented projections summarizing the expected economic slowdown of the U.S. economy, where about 90% of Puerto Rico’s visitors come from. 

Evjen explained that high inflationary levels reduce travelers’ disposable income, which can decrease travel throughout the United States.

The impact of this can be alleviated by the high levels of savings that consumers achieved, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Tourism Economics anticipates that the U.S. economy will contract in the last quarter of 2023 and the first quarter of 2024, then rebound in the second quarter. Even if travel slows, some sectors, such as group travel, business and remote work travelers, demonstrate resilience.

Evjen showed that the demand for accommodations and passenger movement in Puerto Rico is well above pre-pandemic levels and holds a privileged position compared to other jurisdictions.

The current influx of foreign visitors, driven by the DMO’s marketing efforts and industry initiatives, significantly contributes to passenger traffic at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in the metropolitan area, as well as the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla and Mercedita in Ponce.

Between January and June, there was a 19.5% combined increase in arrivals compared to last year. 

Even with economic headwinds, flight reservations to Puerto Rico made before Aug. 20 for the third and fourth quarters of 2023 show increases of 26% and 15%, respectively, compared to last year.

Short-term rental reservations are also up by 40% and 49%. Hotels are shaping up with a 5% increase in the third quarter and a 10% decrease for the fourth. This decrease is due, in part, to events and conventions that took place in 2022 and will not recur this year, the report showed.

The convention, group travel and business market contributed to the last fiscal year with 419 events that generated 186,504 nights of stays and $173.5 million for the Puerto Rican economy.

These events are expected to continue this year with equal or greater intensity. Among the large conventions scheduled on the island in the coming months are the American Society of Travel Writers (SATW) meeting Sept. 7-11 and the world convention of the LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) from Oct. 4-7. 

Discover Puerto Rico adopts space at UAGM
At the event, representatives from Discover Puerto Rico and UAGM’s José A. Tony Santana International School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts inaugurated a new student space on campus that was inspired by Discover Puerto Rico’s marketing and Puerto Rican culture. 

Discover Puerto Rico’s graphic artist, Christian Ortiz, oversaw the space’s design. It features Puerto Rican prints such as the bomba dance; piraguas, or shaved ice; and sunsets. 

The space was adopted as part of a collaborative agreement signed by the UAGM and Discover Puerto Rico in February. It establishes additional collaborations in academic areas and industrial data exchange, among other topics. 

“We’re delighted with this collaboration with the academy associated with the tourism industry that allows us to enhance Puerto Rican pride, help the development of the new generation of tourism professionals, establish close ties with the faculty, and integrate the different components of the industry,” said Edward Zayas, chief strategy officer for Discover Puerto Rico. 

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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