As was recently announced by Governor of Puerto Rico Wanda Vázquez Garced, this week marks the beginning of the 3rd phase of economic reopening for the U.S. jurisdiction, with recreation and tourism at its forefront. The announcement highlights that local residents are invited to enjoy the Island’s ample natural and cultural resources effective immediately, while the industry gets ready to welcome travelers once again as of July 15th with a strict set of health and safety standards in place to control the spread of COVID-19.
Currently, the destination’s popular attractions and tourist locations are open for Island residents. These can enjoy the natural beauty and the hospitality of the travel industry with certain restrictions. Hotels all around Puerto Rico have remained open throughout, and with this recent update, common and commercial spaces, such as pools, bars, restaurants and shops within hotels are able to operate at 50% capacity in order to promote social distancing. Tourist attractions and popular sites are also open during this phase. Tour operators and businesses that rent equipment used for activities related to touristic experiences are also authorized to resume their operations.
The journey to tourism recovery began 90 days ago, when in mid-March, the Governor’s Executive Order enforced an Island-wide lockdown. Puerto Rico was the first jurisdiction in the United States to implement a curfew to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and avert the collapse of the Island’s health system. The efforts of the Government of Puerto Rico have been widely recognized as one of the most aggressive responses in the United States and the COVID-19 rates of infection and mortality on the Island have remained as among the lowest in the nation.
The island aims to continue securing the health and safety of all residents and visitors. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), the government’s Tourism Ministry, designed and implemented rigorous standards that all tourism businesses must comply with before restarting their operations. With the Tourism Health and Safety Program released on May 5th, Puerto Rico became one of the first travel destinations to issue guidelines specifically designed to safeguard the highest health and safety standards at all tourism businesses.
“We mean it when we say we want to aim for a gold standard in health and safety. All tourism-related businesses must comply and practice the guidelines included in this comprehensive program. The PRTC will also inspect and certify over 350 hotels and operators over the next four months that must comply with these standards. We are certain that the assurances and security these measures provide, coupled with the experiences that make Puerto Rico such an attractive destination, will play a vital role in the short-term recovery of the travel industry of the Island,” said the executive director of the PRTC, Carla Campos.
The safe experience begins at the arrival process. The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU/LMM), the Island’s main airport, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico National Guard, is using advanced technology to automatically gage incoming travelers’ temperature and has staff on site to administer a quick health check-up to passengers arriving to the Island. Free and voluntary COVID-19 testing is also available on site. The airport has remained open and, unlike other Caribbean destinations, Puerto Rico has not closed its borders. Currently, Puerto Rico manages approximately 200 daily operations which include cargo, passenger and general aviation flights.
The Government of Puerto Rico is also working on exception to the mandatory 14-day quarantine that remains in effect, for passengers arriving on or after July 15 that provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Further details as it relates to these requirements will be provided in upcoming days as Puerto Rico gets operationally ready for hosting travelers.
The announcement of the upcoming restart of tourism activities allow Discover Puerto Rico (DPR), the Island’s destination marketing organization (DMO), to renew their promotional efforts. DPR’s chief executive officer, Brad Dean, commented that “research shows travelers are already planning their next vacation and are looking for beaches and rural locations that can guarantee a safe and healthy experience. Puerto Rico is the perfect choice as it combines exotic experiences with the comforts and accessibility of a U.S destination with no passport required. Discover Puerto Rico has worked to keep Puerto Rico at the top-of-mind of consumers, and starting on July 15, we will finally be able to offer them the vacation they have been dreaming of.”
PRTC’s top executive, Carla Campos, said she expects new and more flexible measures that will provide visitors with even more access and options to enjoy all the natural beauty, attractions and amenities the Island can provide will be announced before or on July 1st.
In her closing remarks, Governor Vázquez Garced encouraged travelers to plan their upcoming vacations in advance and to comply with all measures implemented to protect the health and safety of everyone in the new global reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic.