The “Great Recovery” of travel and tourism in Puerto Rico is moving forward at an impressive pace, as shown by Discover Puerto Rico’s latest data, released during the July Industry Update. Visitor numbers continue to grow, occupancy has reached unprecedented peaks, and revenue from visitor spending and taxes are at an all-time high.
Room nights sold have surpassed 2019, the island’s best year to date, for eight consecutive weeks, while meetings and convention leads have outpaced 2019 for eight of the last 10 weeks.
“Despite facing many challenges stemming from the pandemic, the tourism community in Puerto Rico is once again showing the world its strength and resiliency,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
The last eight weeks have shown that Puerto Rico’s tourism recovery is exceeding that of other U.S. states and territories. For instance, hotel occupancy rates are 15 percent higher than 2019, while the rest of the United States is showing hotel occupancy to be 7.5 percent below where it was two years ago.
Interestingly, the high hotel demand has not been fueled by low rates. Rates are 37 percent higher than they were during the comparable period in 2019 and the Puerto Rico Tourism Company reported that taxes collected in May were 53 percent higher than two years ago. While final numbers for June have not yet been released, tax collections for the month are expected to be 70 percent higher than in 2019.
Puerto Rico is also outperforming other Caribbean destinations, both in terms of resilience during 2020 and in terms of post-pandemic recovery. Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, shared during the Industry Update that the Caribbean as a region experienced at 68 percent decline in visitor numbers during 2020, while Puerto Rico’s was at 47 percent. In 2021, even by the most conservative estimates, Puerto Rico will bounce back to 2019 figures, whereas the rest of the region will only see a 39 percent recovery.
This trend should continue into 2022, when Puerto Rico is expected to surpass by at least 3 percent 2019’s numbers, in contrast the rest of the Caribbean, which is expected to be 38 percent below the number of visitors it had two years ago. “If I could grade them, I would say Puerto Rico has a Ph.D. in recovery,” said Sacks.
Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste, whose Aerostar Airport Holdings company manages the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in the San Juan metro area, has continued to report strong visitor numbers for the island’s main airport. When compared to the pandemic levels of June 2020, passenger traffic has increased in Puerto Rico by a dramatic 372 percent. In June 2020, during the height of the pandemic, only 214,009 passenger arrivals were recorded at SJU. However, this number jumped to 1,009,754 last month, the company reported.
Independent research reveals that these results have been fueled in large part by the marketing strategies and tactics implemented by Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination marketing organization. According to tracking technology provided by Adara, consumers exposed to Discover Puerto Rico’s ads are not only more likely to arrive on the island, but also pay daily rates 34 percent higher than the average and stay 12 percent longer than other visitors.
While the increase demand is expected to continue throughout the summer, future booking projections show a decline come October. This slowdown in bookings is consistent with “shoulder season” and further explained by a return to normalcy in traveler behavior and the lifting of restrictions for international travel, according the DMO. In tourism parlance, shoulder season is the travel period between peak and off-peak seasons.