“This is yet another example for the world to see just how resilient and strong the people of Puerto Rico are.”

By Alison Fox
January 23, 2020
A view of damages at Guanica town after 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico on January 7, 2020.
| Credit: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Puerto Rico has been slammed with natural disasters from hurricanes to earthquakes. But despite the setbacks, there’s one thing the people of the island want travelers to know: they are very much open for business.

In fact, 2019 was a record year for tourism in Puerto Rico — just two years after Hurricanes Irma and Maria rocked the territory — Brad Dean, the CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s official tourism guide, told Travel + Leisure.

And while the island has yet again been the victim of a natural disaster, this time in the form of a series of earthquakes earlier this month that took out power, forced thousands into shelters, and even destroyed a beloved natural rock formation on the water, it doesn’t mean the people of Puerto Rico are ready to quit.

“This is yet another example for the world to see just how resilient and strong the people of Puerto Rico are,” Dean said, adding he hopes 2020 will continue the “rapid pace of growth” despite the fact that “mother nature has handed us another unique challenge.”

According to Discover Puerto Rico, tourism accounts for about 6.5 percent of Puerto Rico’s GDP with a 4.8 percent increase in leisure and hospitality jobs since July 2018. In total, the tourism industry on the island employs nearly 80,000 people.

Since the earthquakes, Dean said, power has been restored to 99 percent of the U.S. territory and the island’s cruise industry is up and running. Dean added there are currently 200 daily flights in and out of San Juan’s international airport spread over 24 different airlines.

Cars drive through an area on highway 2 that was heavily affected by a landslide after after a powerful earthquake hit the island in Ponce, Puerto Rico on January 12, 2020. - A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Puerto Rico on January 11, 2020, the latest in a series of powerful tremors that have shaken the US territory in recent days, the US Geological Survey reported.
| Credit: RICARDO ARDUENGO/Getty Images
Solmely Velazquez stands in front of her tent in a baseball field in Guanica, Puerto Rico on January 15, 2020, after a powerful earthquake hit the island.
| Credit: RICARDO ARDUENGO/Getty Images

“I think the biggest misconception that we have to correct right now is the isolated area of impact,” Dean said, adding: “Even in the areas that have been directly impacted, there have been a lot of businesses that have reopened.”

Ultimately, Dean said visiting the island is one of the best ways to help the people there recover.

“Scheduling a visit to the island is incredibly important to the people of Puerto Rico because of the importance of tourism to the economy — tourism has led the economic recovery of Puerto Rico,” he said. “The people of Puerto Rico need and want visitors to return.”