Puerto Rico's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), the airport with the busiest passenger traffic in the Caribbean, is commemorating its 65th anniversary as the island gradually seeks to reopen the tourism sector.
The airport—which is actually located in Carolina—inaugurated on May 22, 1955, and has since undergone several transformations, including structural and airline expansions and a change of management. While the airport is owned by the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, the private company Aerostar Airport Holdings, LLC is in charge of management thanks to a public-private partnership (p3) established in 2013.
The airport published a video on its official Twitter account with a statement from Aerostar CEO Jorge Hernández said that, since its inception, the SJU has been "the axis that has allowed family, friends, and others to connect with the world and with each other."
Nuestro CEO, Jorge Hernández, reflexiona en conmemoración del 65 aniversario del Aeropuerto Luis Muñoz Marín. 🛫 Gracias por permitirnos seguir conectando destinos. #65conectandote pic.twitter.com/KkG3m0lJhI— Aeropuerto SJU (@AeropuertoSJU) May 22, 2020
Hernández also acknowledged both opportunities and obstacles that have erupted throughout the airport's 65-year run. Just a few years ago, in 2017, the Puerto Rico's air passenger traffic and overall tourism economy languished due to concerns over the Zika virus and the islandwide destruction after Hurricane Maria. Although the tourism sector reported record numbers last year, 2020 battered this growing economy in the shape of COVID-19.
While the island remains quarantined, Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced on Thursday, May 21 that a new executive order will loosen the lockdown and allow different sectors and industries to reopen starting May 26, in an effort to avoid further economic devastation over the coronavirus crisis. Some of the businesses that will be allowed to resume operations with restrictions include travel agencies, hotels, beaches, shopping centers, and restaurants.
Clarisa Jiménez, president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA), said that tourism members are ready for the staggered openings announced by the government, and are ready to implement the necessary precautionary measures.
"Tourism in Puerto Rico is an activity that generates billions to the economy, so it is necessary to start to boost it by phases always reinforcing the necessary security measures to ensure the health of all in face of the pandemic," Jiménez said.
Moreover, Hernández remains confident that the airport will be able to overcome the present challenges.
"Today, we are experiencing moments of uncertainty, different moments, but not moments that will make us give up on our mission of moving forward and continuing to take this airport and our economic axis toward a more prosperous future. I trust that, with all of you, this airport community that has been the axis of success throughout all these 65 years, we will be able to continue that task," the CEO affirmed.