In another indicator the travel industry is slowly returning to normal, Puerto Rico has reported steady air arrivals and hotel occupancy, a sign of improving consumer sentiment.
According to Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) Discover Puerto Rico’s weekly Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Research, nearly 72% of consumers are now “ready to travel,” a pandemic-era high and up 20 points since the beginning of the year.
The study found that “two-thirds of American travelers still say they have or plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Of those who report receiving a vaccine, over 70% say they are now fully vaccinated. This combined with optimism about the future (47.6% feel that the pandemic situation will improve in the next month) have contributed to another week of record-setting in travel readiness and safety.”
The island has seen a significant increase in both hotel and rental occupancy in March, putting the year-to-date lodging demand only 13% off the record-setting pace of 2019. Throughout 2020, the total lodging demand was 38% off the 2019 high. This sharp increase in the return of travel to Puerto Rico looks to continue throughout the calendar year, according to the DMO.
The current hotel booking pace for every month except September is above where bookings stood at the same time in 2019. In addition, hotels are booking faster than the year with record visitor arrivals, independent rentals continue to make up a greater share of total lodging demand.
Discover Puerto Rico noted that these record-setting statistics are even before the return of the cruise and meetings segment. While it is currently unlikely that the international market will return in 2021 given current restrictions, international visitors make up less than 10% of Puerto Rico’s visitors in a typical year.
An evaluation of the air passengers into Puerto Rico shows a record number of arrivals both from the U.S. mainland and from international markets in 2019. But even in that record-setting year, international passengers made up just 8% of visitor arrivals.
The weekly passenger arrivals into Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan points to the week of February 7, 2021, as a turning point in both arrivals and hotel occupancy.
New entry guidelines
Starting April 28th, according to the latest executive order, travelers arriving in Puerto Rico without a negative PCR molecular test will be charged a $300 fine and are required to obtain a PCR molecular test on the Island within 48 hours of arrival.
The negative test must then be uploaded to the online portal within 48hrs, for the fine to be dismissed and to continue with their trip. If positive, the person must isolate and seek medical attention. If a traveler is still awaiting results from a test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival when they land, they will have up to 48 hours to upload those results for the fine to be dismissed.
Other measures are still in place, such as an Island-wide curfew from 10:00 am to 5:00 am. Public beaches and natural reserves are open, following social distancing guidelines, with public alcohol consumption prohibited. Businesses including restaurants, casinos, museums, and pools at hotels are operating at 30% capacity.