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PR becomes ‘transient hub’ for tourists across Caribbean

Hurricane Irma battered the British Virgin Islands, sending thousands of tourists fleeing to Puerto Rico this week. (Credit: Virgin Limited)

Puerto Rico’s tourism infrastructure has allowed the island to resume regular operations of hotels, sites and attractions this week and has become a transient hub for travelers across the Caribbean who had planned September vacations, government officials said.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. said efforts over the past week have helped more than 3,000 tourists from neighboring Caribbean islands be diverted to Puerto Rico, in addition to mobilizing industry partners to coordinate collections of supplies and donations.

“Today, nearly all hotels in Puerto Rico are operational and apt to continue receiving guests. We’re very fortunate that it’s business as usual across the island and we’re already back on our feet,” said José Izquierdo, Tourism Co. executive director.

“Our Caribbean neighbors need support so we’ve been mobilizing our industry to not only take in travelers who have had their vacations disrupted to serve as a transient hub for them, but also help with relief efforts being conducted by local and U.S. authorities,” he said.

As part of the plan, local hotels have pitched-in in different ways to take in thousands of tourists who were bound for islands in the Lesser Antilles that received a direct impact from Hurricane Irma last week, which crippled much of the infrastructure and buildings, especially on the Virgin Islands.

For example, Marriott hotels including San Juan Marriott, Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and AC Hotel by Marriott welcomed some 700 guests from St. Thomas, St. Maarten and St. John.

The Wyndham Grand Río Mar in Río Grande, has booked some 300 guests from St. Thomas. Additionally, a crew from the St. Thomas air traffic control center is staying on the property, which travels daily to and from St. Thomas.

Federal Emergency Management Agency staff members are staying at the InterContinental San Juan, where they have found suitable facilities and services to lead the disaster response and recovery efforts of the areas in need, the Tourism chief said.

Hotels in the San Juan area, including The Verdanza Hotel, Condado Plaza and Caribe Hilton have mobilized the local community to gather donations for neighboring islands. Meanwhile, El Conquistador Resort, The Meliá Coco Beach, Hotel El Convento and all Marriott and Hilton properties on the island, among others, are also in full operation, taking reservations for future travelers, and welcoming new guests.

To date, the government of Puerto Rico with support from the Tourism Co., the Puerto Rico Department of State, the National Guard, the Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management, among others, has set up operational bases at the San Juan International Airport to assist transient passengers arriving in C-130 aircrafts and get them safely to hotels on the island.

The U.S. National Guard has picked up more than 2,000 tourists from neighboring islands and brought them to Puerto Rico for lodging, food and any medical assistance, the Tourism Co. confirmed.

While some power outages are present throughout the island, most of it is back and the majority of the hotels, as well as essential services on the island, such as hospitals and supermarkets, has electricity and are fully operational.

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

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