With Summer Travel Around the Corner, Hurricane-Hit Caribbean Islands Are Optimistic

by Jessica Montevago
With Summer Travel Around the Corner, Hurricane-Hit Caribbean Islands Are Optimistic

Tourists headed to the beaches of Puerto Rico over Spring Break showing evidence of U.S. travelers' growing trust in the island's readiness to welcome them again. Photo: PRTC

Caribbean nations impacted by back-to-back hurricanes have been using their marketing dollars to extend a warm welcome to travelers, assuring vacations taken will be unhampered by aftermath of two Category 5 storms. And, more importantly, their tourism dollars will be put to good use — helping the islands rebuild. As the messaging appears to be effective, destinations are optimistic they’ll see strong tourism numbers during summer travel.

"We've been encouraging travelers since late December to visit and see first-hand our comeback for themselves. Alongside the reminder that one of the best ways people can support Puerto Rico is by visiting – staying at hotels, eating at restaurants, enjoying our Island's activities, and buying from local businesses, our 'we're open for tourism' message is being heard loud and clear," said Acting Executive Director of the The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) Carla Campos. The organization recently launched online videos with the slogan: Rico is ‘Ready to Enchant You.’

Puerto Rico is hoping to build on a successful Spring Break, where it saw a surge of visitors across the island over the Easter and Passover holidays, for the summer.

According to the PTRC, more than 100 hotels saw a record-breaking performance and the outlook of tourism is very positive for the rest of 2018. The Rincon of the Seas Grand Caribbean Hotel, for example, experienced occupancy levels of 99 percent over the holiday weekend, and the recently reopened Wyndham Rio Mar in Rio Grande on the northeast coast welcomed “hundreds of travelers,” the PTRC said.

It has been six months since the devastating hurricane took its toll. More than 125 hotels were back in business by the end of February, while more than 4,000 restaurants around the island were open. That accounts for about 80 percent of Puerto Rico's hotels and restaurants, according to the PTRC.

The number of passenger cruise ships calling on San Juan has risen, from 15 in October to 53 in December. The PRTC says that more than 170,000 cruise passengers moved through the port of San Juan since the hurricanes.

Dominica, too, is encouraging travelers not to wait to visit.

“Nothing is better for our recovery from Hurricane Maria than visitors to our island,” said Colin Piper, CEO of the Discover Dominica Authority. It’s promoting Voluntourism initiatives, opportunities to clear debris from a river and, for scuba divers, to clean garbage deposited on the ocean floor by the storm. The island tourism board, Discover Dominica, has a list of packages travelers can choose from.

“We have made significant progress in getting the island ready for guests. Whether it’s for a relaxing getaway, special event or meaningful travel, visitors will see the same vibrant spirit of our people and beautiful scenery and features that make Dominica the Nature Island of the Caribbean.”

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