After the gradual recovery it showed after Hurricane María’s destruction to the island in 2017, the tourism industry is already exhibiting its potential to become a main player in Puerto Rico’s economic upturn, a study commissioned by the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association confirmed.
Hotel registrations increased to 1.58 million in August 2019, compared to 1.31 million in the same period for 2018. However, Puerto Rico is still 14% below the five-year average before Hurricane María, with an average of 1.84 million.
The average daily rate for hotel rooms, which dropped in 2018, has shown signs of recovery this year, the study showed, noting that on average, it has been $9 higher than in 2018.
Another finding of the study showed that the number of properties listed on platforms as supplementary accommodations on the island — such as Airbnb and Join-a-Join — has increased by almost 900% since their arrival in 2015.
However, the hotel trade group said supplementary accommodations have a negative impact on both local housing and employment.
“We collected this data to understand the detail of how the different areas of tourism activity have been recovering after the passage of Hurricane María,” PRHTA President Pablo Torres said.
“With the data we have, we see a favorable trend in most of the indicators about how we’re recovering,” said Torres.
“It is time to adjust the main components in destination management such as Discover Puerto Rico and the Tourism Company, and other industry cogs, to work together to recover the group segment and convention-based tourism, which means an increase in Puerto Rico’s business base,” Torres said.
“This segment shows a competitive advantage over other Caribbean destinations. In addition, this segment has a greater multiplier effect on the rest of the economy,” he explained.
The study also presented a number of recommendations to strengthen Puerto Rico as a tourism destination:
- Expand marketing to the West and Midwest of the U.S. mainland to reach potential new markets;
- Increase funds available to market to Puerto Rico in its primary markets. A possible recession in the U.S. economy during 2020 will require greater efforts to attract visitors;
- Perform additional studies to understand the effect that supplementary accommodation platforms have on the local industry. Given the effects that Airbnb can have on housing and employment, greater regulation may be necessary;
- Marketing efforts should be strengthened to maximize the impact they have on the economy; and,
- The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. should strengthen efforts to seize illegal slot machines, so that casino revenues increase substantially.
The study also made suggestions to strengthen Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s Destination Marketing Organization, including establishing a budget of $55 million. The current $25 million budget “is not enough to implement an effective marketing campaign that yields good results.”
“It’s time for all to start rowing in the same direction for the benefit of the island, since tourism has proven to be one of the sectors with better opportunities to recover after the difficult times that we have been dragging,” said PRHTA CEO Clarisa Jiménez.