Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Puerto Rican Tourism

The Yunque Rainforest, which is one Puerto Rico's most popular tourist attractions, is being nominated as one of the New 7 Wonders of nature. The Puerto Rican Tourist Company (PRTC)has been enthusiastically promoting El Yunque by launching a marketing campaign to garner more votes. As with most Caribbean islands, the tourism industry is extremely important to Puerto Rico's economy. A few months ago, when Pres. Obama decided to loosen travel restrictions for those wishing to travel to Cuba, many in Puerto Rico saw it as a threat to the island's tourism sector.

Over 80% of tourists who travel to the island, according to one of the local papers, come from the U.S. Unlike Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico has failed miserably to attract visitors from Europe. I suppose many Americans come here because a U.S passport is not required when visiting. Ironically, many Puerto Ricans themselves travel to the Dominican Republic because it's simply a lot cheaper. In recent years, this neighbor island has actually received more visitors than Puerto Rico itself. There are actually many areas in which this island needs to work on if it wishes to remain competitive in the tourism industry.

Service is one of the issues which Puerto Rico needs to address. For example, ferry service to Vieques and Culebra is atrocious, to say the very least. One of the areas which I believe the PRTC has also neglected are the smaller villages and towns. I am a huge fan of Spanish colonial cities and it saddens me to see the slow decay of so many of Puerto Rico's plazas. Last Sunday, we visited San Germán, an incredibly quaint, cozy and pretty town on the Southwestern part of the island. Unsurprisingly, the local tourism office was closed and there weren't many people walking around at all. Puerto Rico has so much potential to develop itself as a major international tourist destination, but it will certainly require much initiative and effort.


Anonymous said...

If the small set of Americans permitted to travel to Cuba is a blow, imagine what will happen when ALL Americans will be able to go there. It will devastate Puerto Rico's tourism industry.

Customer service there is lacking in my experience. If they need to bring in third-country nationals to work in the hotels and all, then they need to do it. However, market forces tend to ignite urgency in recalcitrant labor pools. Competition might just be the jolt to make Puerto Rico reinvent itself into what it can be!

adriana said...

Hello anonymous,

You're right, perhaps this wake-up call will make PR more competitive. It'll be interesting to see what the future holds.