Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Puerto Rico's high vaccination numbers are quite impressive, and Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, led off with those statistics during our recent conversation.

"The latest data from our health department shows that 91.5% of the island population has received one dose of vaccine, and 81.6% of those five years and up are fully vaccinated," Dean said, adding that booster shots are on the rise as well.

"Even with the recent global uptick regarding omicron, the Covid case count here has declined over the past 14 weeks, probably driven by the destination's ongoing commitment to health and safety," he said.

While specific figures for visitor arrivals and tourism revenues earned last year have not yet been released, "2021 was an all-time record year for Puerto Rico," he said. "Who would have thought that? Credit must go to the proactive, nonpoliticized way the government, our health authorities and the private sector as well as our marketing, sales and research teams adapted to the crises and responded to the trends we have seen."

He cited passenger arrivals through November at the Luis Munoz Marin airport in San Juan, which surpassed 2019's numbers in the same timeframe with six straight months of record arrivals beginning last June.

November alone recorded 417,889 air arrivals, a 6.9% increase from the same month in 2019. (December numbers have not yet been released.)

"We saw increases in year-to-date lodging demand that were 16% higher than the previous record set in 2019 in the same time period and also saw the most hotel demand since August 2017, with rental demand the highest ever," Dean said.

Annual annual lodging revenues shattered 2019 figures by 37% , surpassing $1 billion for the first time. Revenue per available room was 124% higher than the U.S. mainland average. (In 2019, RevPAR for Puerto Rico was approximately 61% above the U.S. average.)

For 2022, Dean said he remained optimistic that positive upward trends will continue  "provided that we continue to earn and maintain confidence and trust for our tourism partners, travel advisors, visitors and our people here and that we continue to be transparent, alleviate confusion and remain responsive and diligent."

Dean said that more than 21,000 travel advisors have enrolled in the island's Travel Expert specialist program. "They are a critical component of Puerto Rico's success as a travel destination," he said.

Puerto Rico hosted 67 events in 2021, including conventions, sporting events, trade shows and conferences. On the calendar so far this year are the Dorado Beach Collegiate Golf in February, Ironman competition in March and Connect Marketplace and the North American Travel Journalists Association conference, both in May.

What about cruising in Puerto Rico?

Dean said that the cruise industry has had a "challenging comeback."

"We saw some ships return last August and had a few calls after that." But he was bullish that the sector would return. "Already we have some lines returning in February and March, and Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas will homeport here beginning in April."

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