Report: Puerto Rico’s string of crises made resiliency cornerstone of tourism strategy
The string of challenges that Puerto Rico has faced since the back-to-back hurricanes of 2017, the government’s debt crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made “becoming resilient a cornerstone” of the island’s tourism strategy.
Puerto Rico is one of the destinations featured as a case study in the World Travel & Tourism Council’s “Enhancing Resilience to Create Sustainability in Destinations” industry report released during its Sustainability and Investment Forum taking place in San Juan.
“Puerto Rico is an example of a destination that learned through COVID and natural disasters to become more inherently resilient,” WTTC President Julia Simpson said. “COVID has had a devastating impact, decimating the travel and tourism sector around the world. But it’s certainly not the first shock to bring chaos destinations and their citizens.”
The report explains the lessons that Puerto Rico learned over the past five years, including the need to foster investor confidence, the need to provide financial support for small- and mid-sized businesses, and develop a “sophisticated playbook for tourism recovery following a crisis.”
The case study was prepared by Imaris Arocho, the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.’s chief marketing officer and Ronald Castro, advisor to the agency on sustainable economic impact, and included in the report.
Among the key learnings, the officials told the WTTC of the importance of “conducting regional drills so the tourism sector and locals understand the procedure for a crisis.”
The economic impact of the 2017 Hurricanes is estimated at more than $80 billion, while Puerto Rico’s travel and tourism sector, which represented nearly 6% of GDP in 2019, was effectively grounded by COVID-19.
“The pandemic has taught us you can never be prepared enough. Destinations have learnt not only from their own experiences, and those of other countries as they recover and build back,” Simpson said.
To combat the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the island’s tourism, the government created the Promote Puerto Rico program to attract visitors and investors and earmarked $120 million in federal funds to promote tourism, attract conferences and events, revitalize tourist attractions, and foster job creation.
“We have been able to see a great return on that investment,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi during the summit.
Caribbean tourism sector poised for growth
The report also revealed that the Caribbean’s travel and tourism sector could create 1.34 million jobs over the next 10 years if governments and the private sector enhance intra-regional cooperation and become a single voice.
In 2019, the sector’s contribution to the region’s GDP was 13.9 % ($61.5 billion), falling to just 7.1% ($28.8 billion) in 2020, which represented a 53.2% loss.
The sector also supported more than 2.7 million jobs across the region, before experiencing a staggering 25.8%, falling to 2.1 million in 2020, suffering a higher drop than the global average.
According to the latest report, published today in Puerto Rico, the sector’s contribution to GDP could grow at an average rate of 6.7% annually over the next decade, outstripping the region’s overall economy growth.
The Caribbean travel and ourism’s contribution to the region’s GDP could reach more than $100 billion by 2032, it noted.
But to achieve this, the global tourism body says stronger collaboration across the Caribbean region, investment in infrastructure, better air connectivity and investing in the workforce, will be critical as the Caribbean competes with other parts of the world.