Puerto Rico's tourism industry begins rebound from COVID-19 pandemic

Puerto Rico's tourism industry is beginning to rebound after taking a huge hit during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association.

"It's incredible how the industry has been able to bounce back," Clarisa Jimenez said.

Jimenez said the island's tourism industry was able to bounce back from not only the pandemic, but also Hurricane Maria in 2017 and, before that, the Zika virus outbreak.

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Airlines are starting to offer more flights to the island, as at least 2 million Puerto Ricans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this week, Puerto Rico relaxed some of the COVID capacity restrictions, allowing bars and restaurants to open up to more tourists.

Last month, the island began waiving any testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S.

Puerto Rico has seen declining numbers in new cases since April and reported only 10 new cases on June 9.

Jimenez said the people who operate the Discover Puerto Rico website were hard at work during the pandemic, waiting for the moment they could launch tons of promotional deals and activities and kick off their marketing campaign.

Marina Reyes Franco, who lives in Puerto Rico and is a visitor economy researcher, said the island's tourism industry makes up less than 10% of the island's economy.

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Still, Franco said she worries that all the focus on tourism right now takes the eyes off Puerto Rico's serious financial hardships.

According to U.S. Census records, 43% of Puerto Ricans live in poverty.

"When there is an idea that the economy is going to be, it's going to boom because of tourism," she said. "Then, that shifts the focus on decades of economic neglect."

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