The negative short-term economic global impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the tourism industry has been devastating. Now, as the world begins to slowly reopen and potentially recapture their lost tourism industry, it is imperative to rethink and reassess how and to where we all travel. This process could potentially be beneficial to Puerto Rico, as some tourism locations may be more affected than others.
Short air travel: As air travel starts up again and destinations begin to reopen, most people do not feel comfortable traveling on long flights. This is an excellent opportunity for Puerto Rico. As a U.S. island beach destination, Puerto Rico’s shortest flight from the mainland U.S., is two and a half hours in contrast to Honolulu’s six.
International trips: International air travel could be risky because of the potential long distances, exposure and different government virus protocol requirements. A serious concern is that if there is no COVID-19 vaccine available, there might be a second wave of this global virus. Puerto Rico is a U.S. domestic travel destination that does not require you to have a passport. No one wants to be trapped in an international destination if all travel is banned or canceled to the U.S.
Travel local: Look within! There are excellent local tourism options in Puerto Rico. As people fly less and families look to stay close to home, destinations that are domestic, look more feasible. Beyond the traditional places like Old San Juan and El Yunque, the island has incredibly unique and diverse destinations that we all need to visit.
Vacation rentals: As traditional hotels turn and operate as lodges and the local vacation rentals rent out for two or four weeks, the local lodging offerings will provide a much more secure environment for families and will also help control the spread of the virus. These options help both hotel owners as well as the local rental market.
Nevertheless, as we are pressed to decide how to reopen the industry safely and redesign an economic recovery plan for the island, several things will have to be implemented:
Limit ports of entry: As an island, Puerto Rico has a clear advantage combating this pandemic. Controlling the amount of ports of entry and implementing biological barriers, including testing, will help minimize the spread and give travelers a unique sense of comfort during their visit.
Digitize: Develop online reservations with specific entry times that can handle crowd control. New apps where potential travelers and visitors can book any activity without having to stand in line will help the overall experience and improve word-of-mouth.
Follow the rules: As local government restrictions begin to loosen, we all have a responsibility to help the tourism industry by continuing to publicly observe important rules, like social distancing, the use of shields and masks etc. These measures work both as a potential sickness prevention as well as to minimize anxiety.
Spread the news: We have one of the lowest death rates in the U.S. for COVID-19. Puerto Rico’s location, its warm tropical climate, and the quickness with which the island went into lockdown are important bits of information that need to be part of any communication piece as we seek to reopen our tourism industry.
As more and more people begin to feel comfortable and crave travel away from home, Puerto Rico has a unique opportunity to step up and redefine travel and tourism during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Let us not waste an opportunity to conceptualize a new travel experience for all to follow.