Small inn owners: Executive Order falls short in two areas for tourism sector
The Puerto Rico Association of Owners of Small Inns and Tourism said the most recent Executive Order related to COVID-19 falls short on two key aspects, which they believe should be considered to “strengthen and improve the effectiveness of its implementation” in the sector.
The owners of small inns (known as “paradores”) believe that based on the current situation and the accelerated rate of spread of the Delta variant, the new government should require the use of sanitation practices in all commercial and recreational spaces, open and closed, where crowds of people of all ages usually happen.
“We believe that health practices are essential in the war against COVID-19. Our ‘paradores’ maintain, as a requirement, the use of masks, physical distancing, and frequent hand washing in all our common areas, as preventive measures,” said Xavier A. Ramírez, head of the marketing committee and next president of the Association.
“As a result, in 17 months, we haven’t had any positive employees. In addition, these practices have proven to be very effective in containing the spread of the virus in areas and activities where there is an agglomeration of people,” he said. “Although these represent a substantial cost for us, they facilitate the economic opening that we so badly need.”
They also point out that the weakest link in the new executive order is to ensure compliance in the independent short-term rentals, “which become party houses, and have been an ongoing problem during the pandemic in Puerto Rico and worldwide.”
“There are more than 25,000 of these units and the vast majority are not registered as required by our laws and regulations,” said Jesús Ramos, president of the association, adding that at present, these lodgings represent more than 35% of the rented rooms and they go unsupervised.
Regarding requesting the vaccination card or a negative test for guests and visitors, the owners of the small inns believe that the implementation will be adequate, and there will be a minimum effect on their businesses, provided the new guidelines received from the Tourism Co., are applied consistently across the sector, the trade group confirmed.
“We believe and support vaccination as the best tool available to control the spread of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, and we don’t anticipate much difficulty in implementing the new requirements with our employees,” Ramos said. “To date, more than 95% of our employees and most of their immediate family are fully vaccinated.”
The Association called on the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., the Health Department and state and municipal public security agencies to consider its recommendations “and establish the appropriate countermeasures to address these two gaps,” said Ramos.