Nearly two months after the passing of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's tourism industry is moving forward. The island's airports and cruise ports are operational and several hotels are open and taking reservations, although most still operate on generator power. As of Nov. 29, 68% of the 3.4 million Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority customers have power, although intermittent power failures frequently occur in San Juan. More than 9% of people still do not have water to drink or bathe in and thousands still do not have roofs on their homes, according to the Army Corps of Engineers which is charged with installing blue tarps.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced on Nov. 27 a new entity called the Central Recovery and Reconstruction Office (CRRO) that will undertake the island's recovery with full transparency. Rossello said that CRRO will have state and federal controls to ensure there is transparency in the recovery process.
At a press conference in Washington on Nov. 13, the governor said that Hurricanes Irma and Maria left behind $94 billion of damage in Puerto Rico. "We're not only looking to rebuild but we want to make it much stronger, more resilient and a model for the rest of the Caribbean," he said.
"We expect to welcome visitors to the island in the weeks ahead, especially those looking to travel with a purpose as we're working to finalize compelling voluntourism activities for those who want to head out beyond San Juan and help the communities in greater need," said Jose Izquierdo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC).
ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby traveled to Camuy Cave Park on Puerto Rico's north coast Nov. 16 to 18 to help kick off the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.'s "Rebuild Days" initiative, which is designed to focus efforts by volunteers to clean up several attractions impacted by Hurricane Maria in September. Volunteers have already worked at Camuy River Cave Park in northwestern Puerto Rico and at Seven Seas Beach at Fajardo on the east coast. Coming up on Dec. 7 is the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center near Ponce, Crash Boat Beach near Aguadilla on Dec. 9 and a return visit to Camuy River Cave Park on Dec. 16. Volunteers are advised to wear a long sleeve shirt, a hat, sneakers, sunblock and bug repellant when participating in Rebuild Days, according to the PRTC.
"Tourism continues to be vital to Puerto Rico's road to recovery, and we look forward to welcoming visitors soon, especially those who want to give back this holiday season," Izquierdo said. "Continuing to visit us, staying at our hotels, eating at our restaurants, buying from local businesses and giving back through rebuilding efforts is the best way to support us right now."
Izquierdo hopes that tourism will reopen in San Juan by Dec. 20, in time for the December-May high season, according to USA Today. However, travelers are advised to check with their hotels regarding power sources.
Meet Puerto Rico (MPR), the Destination Marketing Organization for attracting meetings to Puerto Rico, launched the Experience Puerto Rico promotion with the message that Puerto Rico's meetings industry has moved from a period of assessment to engagement. "We were hit hard, that's for sure, but we are still standing," said Milton Segarra, president and CEO, MPR.
The promotion aims to drive meetings and conventions to the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan as well as meetings sites throughout the country, once they are open. The convention center currently is being used as the headquarters for government officials during San Juan's recovery.
The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association will host its annual Marketplace event in San Juan Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.
The Luis Muoz Marin International Airport is fully operational, with scheduled domestic and international flights. Airports in Aguadilla, Ponce, Ceiba, Isla Grande and Vieques are operational and offering limited service.
The PRTC is in direct communication with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association partners. San Juan Harbor is open and resumed homeport operations with the departure of Royal Caribbean International's Adventure of the Seas on Oct. 7. The schedule now is weekly.
Viking has resumed its homeport schedule from San Juan.
Carnival will also resume sailings from San Juan on Feb. 18 once the Carnival Fascination completes its charter by FEMA to provide housing and meals to relief workers in St. Croix.
Carnival Cruise Line will resume calls in San Juan on Nov. 30, according to a message posted by Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line on Oct. 21. The Nov. 30 call will be made by the Carnival Conquest.
Royal Caribbean's first call in San Juan is Nov. 30 with the Freedom of the Seas.
On Nov. 12, Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Dawn will resume sailings from San Juan on a revised seven-day itinerary
Beyond San Juan, the following ports are open with restrictions (daylight transit only): Guayanilla, Tallaboa, Salinas, Fajardo, Culebra, Vieques and Guayama.
PRTC reported that more than 450 restaurants, including franchises, are open, including restaurants in the Condado, Old San Juan and Santurce areas. However, most of them are operating on generator power.
In addition, 27 ground tour operators and 16 car rental companies with 61 dealers throughout the island, are open for business.
PRTC also reported that 66% of the island's casinos are open, with 38% open 24 hours a day.
More than 100 hotel properties are open and most taking new reservations for the upcoming months. The PRTC advises that visitors should contact the hotels directly for property-specific information. Many properties that are listed as open are operating on generator power only. Following are the dates that hotels are expected to reopen; if no date is listed, the hotel has reopened and is taking reservations:
Acacia Seaside Inn
AC Hotel San Juan Condado (Dec. 1)
Aquarius Club Boqueron
Aquarius Vacation Club Golden Sand Villas
At Wind Chimes Boutique Hotel
Azul ESJ Collection
Beside the Pointe on the Beach
Best Western Condado Palm Inn & Suites (Nov. 15)
Boquemar Beach Hotel
Borinquen Beach Inn
Canario Boutique Hotel
Caribe Hilton (Dec. 31)
Casa Blanca Hotel
Casa Condado Hotel
Casa Flamboyant, closed until further notice
Casa Isabel Bed and Breakfast, closed until further notice
Casa Islena Inn, closed until further notice
Casa Sol Bed and Breakfast
Casa Verde Hotel, closed until further notice
Cielo Mar Hotel
Ciqala Luxury Home Suites
Coconut Palms Inn, closed until further notice
Cofresi Beach Hotel
Combate Beach Hotel
Comfort Inn & Suites, Campomar
Comfort Inn San Juan
Condado Lagoon Villas at Caribe Hilton (Dec. 31)
Condado Plaza (Dec. 31)
Condado Vanderbilt Hotel
Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa
Coral by the Sea Hotel, closed until further notice
Coral Princess Hotel (March 1)
Costa Bahia Hotel & Convention Center
Courtyard by Marriott Aguadilla (Dec. 3)
Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach
Courtyard by Marriott San Juan Miramar (Dec. 2)
Da' House Hotel, closed until further notice
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, closed, pending assessments
Dorado Beach Hotel, Plantation Village
Dos Angeles del Mar Guest House, closed until further notice
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Juan
Dream Inn Puerto Rico
El Canario by the Lagoon
El Canario Inn
El Conquistador, a Waldorf Astoria Resort (April 1)
El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection (Jan. 31)
Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar Beach Resort (Dec. 31)
Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel & Casino (Dec. 31)
Estancia La Jamaca
Four Points by Sheraton Caguas Real
Gran Melia (TBD)
Hacienda El Jibarito
Hampton Inn & Suites San Juan (Dec. 31)
Hilton Condado Lagoon Villa, (Nov. 1)
Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort (Dec. 31)
Hix Island House (Vieques), closed until further notice
Holiday Inn Express San Juan Condado Hotel
Holiday Inn Mayagez
Holiday Inn Ponce & Tropical Casino
Hosteria Del Mar
Hotel Decanter, closed until further notice
Hotel El Convento
Hotel El Guajataca
Hotel Fajardo Inn
Hotel Gran Melia Coco Beach, closed until further notice
Hotel Iberia, closed until further notice
Hotel InterContinental San Juan (Dec. 31)
Hotel Milano, closed until further notice
Hotel Ocean Front, closed until further notice
Hotel Olimpo Court, closed until further notice
Hotel St. Regis at Bahia Beach Resort
Hotel Villa Forin
Hotel Villa Herencia, closed until further notice
Hotel Villa Montana & Spa
Howard Johnson Hotel Ponce (Feb. 1)
Howard Johnson Mayagez
Hyatt Hacienda del Mar, Dorado
Hyatt House San Juan
Hyatt Place Manati Hotel
Hyatt House San Juan
Hyatt Residence Club Dorado, closed until further notice
InterContinental San Juan, Isla Verde
La Concha, a Renaissance Resort (Nov. 1)
Las Casitas Village at El Conquistador (April 1)
Lazy Parrot Inn & Restaurant
La Terraza de San Juan
Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn
Malecon House, closed until further notice
Mayagez Resort & Casino
Numero 1 on the Beach, closed until further notice
Olive Boutique Hotel
Paradise Guest House, closed until further notice
Parador Costa del Mar, closed until further notice
Parador El Buen Cafe
Parador El Faro
Parador Guanica 1929, closed until further notice
Parador Mauna Caribe
Parador Palmas De Lucia
Parador Turtle Bay
Parador Villa Parguera
Parador Villas del Mar Hau, closed until further notice
Parador Villas Sotomayor
Parador Yunque Mar
Plaza de Armas Hotel, closed until further notice
Ponce Plaza Hotel & Casino
Posada Que Chevere, closed until further notice
Punta Maracayo Resort
Rincon Beach Hotel, closed until further notice
Rincon of the Seas y Villa Antonio
Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Hotel (April 4)
Royal Isabela, closed until further notice
San Juan Airport Hotel
San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino (Will open bookings on marriott.com as of Dec. 3 for available rooms. Pool, beach, casino and restaurants are open; Red Coral Lounge has music on weekends.)
San Juan Water Beach Club (Oct. 31)
San Miguel Plaza Hotel
San Sebastian Bed & Breakfast
Serafina Beach Hotel, a new property in Condado, plans to open in March
Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino (Dec. 1)
Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino (Jan. 9)
St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort (Dec. 1)
The Condado Plaza Hilton (Jan. 1)
The Wave Hotel
Tres Palmas Inn
Tryp by Wyndham
Verdanza Hotel (TBD)
Villa Cofres (TBD)
Villa Coral Guest House, closed until further notice
Villa Montana Beach Resort (Dec. 15)
W Retreat & Spa in Vieques (April 8)
Western Bay Boqueron Beach Hotel, closed until further notice
Wyndham Garden at Palmas Del Mar, closed until further notice
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa (Dec. 1)
The 12-room Dreamcatcher bed and breakfast hotel in San Juan's Ocean Park neighborhood reopened with limited service Oct. 6.
The new 96-room Serafina Beach Hotel is slated to open in March along the Ashford Avenue strip in Condado, five minutes from Old San Juan. Nightly rates will start at $345 per room, double, in high season and drop to $225 in low season.
Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino will open Jan. 9. Nightly rates will start at $254 per room, double. The hotel will host its eighth annual Illusions celebration on New Year's Eve for an evening of music and dancing, lasting until 5 a.m. with open bar. Tickets can be booked from the hotel at (787) 993-3500.
Travelers are advised to doublecheck with individual properties and to view http://puertoriconow.seepuertorico.com/hotels for a full list of the status of hotels.
Attractions update (unless otherwise noted, all are open and operating):
• Amazing Grace, San Juan, will return in mid-November for bay tours
• Antiguo Casino, San Juan
• Bacardi Visitor Center, Catana
• Bio Bay, Las Croabas, currently closed
• Boqueron town, Cabo Rojo
• Cabo Rojo Convention Center
• Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park, Luquillo
• Castillo Serralles, Ponce, will reopen Nov. 10 Fridays to Sundays
• El Atelier, Cocina Abierta, open and able to offer the VIP cooking classes
• El Morro and San Cristobal Forts, San Juan, closed, but the grounds outside El Morro are open to the public;
• Explora Multiaventura, San Juan, body rafting in the mountains
• Get Shopped, culinary tours of Old San Juan, currently operating for groups
• Hacienda Carabali, operational, including ATVs and horseback riding tours
• Hacienda Munoz Coffee plantation, San Lorenzo, no power yet
• La Parguera town, Lajas, open, some shops/restaurants on generator power
• Las Cascadas Water Park, Aguadilla
• Mayaguez Boardwalk
• Mosquito Bay, Vieques
• Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, San Juan, currently closed
• Museo de Arte de Ponce, open Sundays, Tuesdays and Saturdays
• Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan, expects to reopen in mid-November
• Niuyorican Cafe, Old San Juan, closed
• Old Ponce Firehouse Museum, Ponce
• Plaza Las Americas and the Mall of San Juan
• Ponce Museum of Art
• Rainforest Zip Line, Rio Grande
• Schoenstatt Church, Cabo Rojo
• Serralles Castle, Ponce
• Vieques Boardwalk, damaged
• The Watchman Cross, Ponce
The coliseum in Arecibo is being used as a collection center; the stadium in Bayamon is available for day games only; stadiums in Caguas, Carolina are not available until mid-2018; Ponce's and San Juan's sports facilities are being used by the military as collection centers.
The Puerto Rico Convention Center will resume its schedule of conventions in January, beginning with CHTA's Caribbean Travel Marketplace Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.
Main transportation companies, as well, as taxi drivers, are fully operating and providing ongoing service to visitors. Local travel agencies are operating and also providing service to travelers.
FEMA is finalizing plans to fly 3,000 residents still in shelters to New York and Florida due to unavailability of lodging for them on the island.