Saying the island’s tourism sector is the “first industry to come out of recession,” Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Executive Director Ingrid Rivera said the work done over the past three-and-a-half years would result in record-breaking numbers by year’s end.
“In 3-and-a-half years, we have gone from bankruptcy to profitability. Together, we have turned this industry from decline to growth,” she said to a roomful of tourism industry executives during the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association’s annual luncheon on Friday.
“We are the first industry in Puerto Rico to come out of recession. All of this in 3-and-a-half years, and in the middle of one of the worst economic climates in Puerto Rico’s history,” she said.
In her speech, Rivera resumed the progress of the different tourism segments, saying:
- Puerto Rico received a record number of visitors, 5 million in 2015, a 20 percent increase in 3 years. They spent more, reaching an all-time record high of $3.8 billion, or another 20 percent increase in three years;
- Strong hotel occupation, reaching 70.4 percent in 2015-16 from 67.9 percent;
- Puerto Rico will reach its goal of close to 10 million passengers to island airports by the end of 2016;
- Cruise ship passenger traffic has exceeded the goal of 1.5 million this year and is expected to reach 1.7 million during the 2017-18 season;
- For the first time ever, international tourists rise above 11 percent of total hotel stays. Visitors from Europe have increased by 40 percent, while U.S. visitors have grown 17 percent since 2011‐12.
With regards to passenger movement at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, Rivera credited the work done in tandem with operator Aerostar, which resulted in new airlines establishing routes between Puerto Rico and different European and South American cities.
For example, she mentioned Avianca, which on Nov. 2nd, will add two additional weekly flights, providing daily direct service to Bogota and connecting to all of South America
The island’s 2014 participation in the Asociación Colombiana de Agencias de Viajes y Turismo, “together with aggressive marketing efforts, and the new Avianca flight, helped catapult Puerto Rico in this market. Hotel registrations from Colombia have increased 250 percent in the last four years,” she said.
Airport passenger traffic growth brings a significant increase in the tourism industry’s economic impact to the island, that created more than 2,500 direct jobs” Rivera said, adding that the Puerto Rico Labor Department’s hotels and restaurants category statistics shows an increase from 69,900 jobs in 2012 to 78,000 jobs in 2016, or 12 percent growth.
As for maritime access, passenger traffic reached 1.5 million in 2015, up from 1.03 million in 2013, due to the enactment of the Pier Restructuring Program. Starting in winter 2017, Royal Caribbean and Holland America will begin service into Ponce. By 2017-18, Tourism is projecting 1.7 million passengers based on negotiations with the cruise ships and planned vessel schedules
“Whoever thinks this industry has not grown in the last 3-and-a-half-years, clearly hasn’t seen the numbers,” Rivera said. “To grow, we must diversify our product offering to meet the changing needs of the new world traveler.”