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WTTC report: Tourism spending in Puerto Rico to jumpby 156% by 2032

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) marked World Tourism Day in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., acknowledging Puerto Rico for its “exceptional growth and commitment” to promoting sustainable travel, and noting that a report suggests tourism spending in Puerto Rico is predicted to increase by 156% in real terms by 2032.

The recent report, “Sustainability in Numbers: Economic, Environmental and Social Impact for Travel & Tourism in Puerto Rico,” unveiled by WTTC Director of Sustainability Chris Imbsen, showcased the island’s leadership in the sector.

Some of the findings include:

  • Travel & Tourism plays a crucial role in creating jobs in Puerto Rico, supporting nearly 110,000 jobs in 2019. This represented around 11%, or one in nine jobs in Puerto Rico that year. Although the percentage declined in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, it still stood at more than 7% and 8% of jobs, respectively, in those years. From 2019 to 2021, Travel & Tourism supported a proportion of jobs in Puerto Rico similar to that stateside, despite making a larger relative contribution to gross domestic product in the U.S.
  • Youth employment in the sector accounts for around 14% of jobs, about double the share in Puerto Rico overall. More than two-fifths of the jobs in the sector were held by women, aligning with the average in the Puerto Rican economy.
  • The Puerto Rican Travel & Tourism sector’s direct emissions, originating from its operations, were minimal. The majority of emissions were linked to external transport, including aviation and cruises, and its supply chain, particularly outside Puerto Rico.
  • Most of the sector’s energy use in 2021 was associated with external aviation. Excluding aviation, energy use per U.S. dollar contribution to GDP fell over time. Only a small share came from low-carbon sources, which partly reflects the use of fossil fuels in aviation.
  • The volume of water withdrawals associated with the island’s Travel & Tourism sector amounted to less than 1% of Puerto Rico’s total in each year included in the analysis. Only a small fraction of the water withdrawals linked to the sector occurred in highly water-stressed areas.

The island stands out as the first global destination to “rigorously evaluate the influence of its travel and tourism sector across diverse benchmarks. This pioneering report is a testament to Puerto Rico’s forward-thinking approach in harmonizing tourism with sustainability,” officials said.

Puerto Rico’s travel and tourism sector has long been the backbone of the island’s economy, supporting countless jobs, injecting capital into communities and acting as a significant export through inbound arrivals. Its importance to the Puerto Rican economy is expected to increase with its post-pandemic growth.

“Puerto Rico’s commitment to sustainable tourism has not gone unnoticed,” Imbsen said. “Our latest report showcases the incredible strides the island has made to understand the growth of their travel and tourism sector so they can take the appropriate measures to ensure it grows sustainably.”

“They are creating a balance between offering world-class tourist experiences and conserving its natural beauty. This synergy is a beacon for destinations worldwide,” he said.

“The Travel & Tourism sector plays a vital role in the socioeconomic development of the island, as evidenced by the historical resurgence we have experienced following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Carlos Mercado, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.

“Aligned with global trends and best practices in the industry, the Government of Puerto Rico maintains a firm commitment to fostering a more conscious approach to preserving our natural resources and tourist attractions,” Mercado said. “For this reason, we are pleased to be the first destination to present this first-of-its-kind market study, dedicated to sustainability efforts and the environmental impact on the tourism ecosystem.”

Mercado added that the “report not only represents our vision for a more eco-efficient future but also offers us a solid foundation to continue guiding our actions towards developing and strengthening our sustainable tourism programs.

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