Before Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico a year ago, the Caribbean island was a popular destination known for its beaches, vibrant culture and natural beauty. But amid this week’s flood of first-anniversary coverage, some of which you may see right here in Metro, residents and tourism officials want travelers to know Puerto Rico is as captivating as ever.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but Puerto Rico is writing a comeback story like our industry has never seen,” said Brad Dean, CEO of newly formed Discover Puerto Rico. “We look forward to turning the page from talking about what Maria did to Puerto Rico and now begin to talk about what the people of Puerto Rico are doing after Maria. It’s a great story to tell.”
For Dean, the biggest challenge is battling perception.
“So many people, they remember the coverage of what happened and the devastation and destruction that was experienced, but they haven’t seen the updated imagery,” he said. “Unless they’ve visited, they might not be aware that the island’s tourism industry is not only open for business, we’re ready, eager and able to welcome visitors back to the island.”
And how: One year after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has 132 hotels open with nearly 11,000 rooms for rent, 14 cruise ships and 110 daily flights on 28 airlines. Plus, 4,000 restaurants, 13 golf courses, 16 casinos and some of the island’s most-treasured attractions are also up and running.
Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria: From SOS to Bienvenidos!
Hard-hit community Humacao may perfectly illustrate Puerto Rico’s post-Hurricane Maria recovery. Lifelong resident Janet Gonzalez, 47, said, “The water reached our knees and the strong winds left the shelter without a roof.” Her 10 days of basic supplies were damaged, and the community was in desperate need of relief.
So they wrote “SOS” on the street, and an aerial photo later taken by an aid worker went viral and helped the community get the much-needed supplies.
Today, that “SOS” has been changed to “Bienvenidos!” or “Welcome!” to let the world know “we are standing,” Gonzalez said. “We are grateful for the help we have received. Some houses need repairs, but our community is getting up, and we need you to visit us.”
“There is no better way to help your fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico than to book your next vacation, meeting or conference,” Dean said. “This is how we can accelerate the recovery.”