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A pedestrian wearing a protective mask in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photographer: Gabriella N. Baez/Bloomberg)

Cautious Puerto Rico to welcome int’l visitors on July 15

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photographer: Gabriella N. Baez/Bloomberg)

In just two weeks the US overseas territory of Puerto Rico will open its borders to international, according to a recent announcement by Governor of Puerto Rico Wanda Vázquez Garced.

Governor of Puerto Rico Wanda Vázquez Garced (Photo: eTurbo News)

But while the Caribbean island, which has experienced several catastrophes over the last two years, expects a boon in recreation and tourism activities when it welcomes international travellers on July 15, tourism industry stakeholders remain cautious. As a result, the autonomous territory will implement strict health and safety standards in place to control the spread of the coronavirus.

“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 (Puerto Rico Tourism Company) will also inspect and certify over 350 hotels and operators over the next four months that must comply with these standards,” a release from the PRTC noted.

Always open for business

Hiking in the El Yunque National Forest (Photo: Discover Puerto Rico)

At present, the destination’s popular attractions and tourist locations are open for Island residents who can enjoy the natural beauty and the hospitality of the travel industry with certain restrictions.

In fact, hotels and tourist attractions 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 per cent capacity in order to promote social distancing. Tour operators and businesses that rent equipment used for activities related to touristic experiences are also authorised to resume their operations.

Safety first

“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.”

— Carla Campos, executive director, Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Notwithstanding, the island’s tourism authority is working towards securing the health and safety of all residents and visitors. For this reason, the PRTC endeavoured to design and implement clear-cut guidelines that all tourism businesses must comply with before restarting their operations. On May 5, therefore, Puerto Rico introduced the Tourism Health and Safety Program to ensure the highest health and safety standards at all tourism businesses.

“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,” Executive Director of the PRTC Carla Campos remarked.

The safe experience will start with the arrival process. The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU/LMM), Puerto Rico’s primary airport, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico National Guard, will use advanced technology to automatically gauge incoming travellers’ temperature and has medical staff on-site to administer a quick health check-up on passengers arriving in the island.

Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (Photo: Skytrax)

Though cautious, the Government of Puerto Rico is also working on an exception to the mandatory 14-day quarantine, which remains in effect, for passengers arriving on or after July 15 that provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

A new buzz

The announcement of the upcoming restart of tourism activities allows Discover Puerto Rico (DPR), the island’s destination marketing organisation, to renew their promotional efforts.

According to DPR Chief Executive Officer Brad Dean, “…research shows travellers 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 US 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.”