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August is typically a month filled with international travel and tropical summer vacations. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for Americans to travel outside of the country, many islands that rely on tourism to thrive, like Puerto Rico, have had to also address the need to protect visitors and residents from the spread of the coronavirus.
Puerto Rico initially announced reopening tourism on July 15. However, faced with a growing number of coronavirus cases, the reopening has been delayed indefinitely. Now, only essential travel is encouraged, and the island has implemented strict curfews to help curb the virus from spreading.
CompareCards turned to Discover Puerto Rico for more insight on what travelers can expect when the island officially opens back up for tourism beyond essential travel.
Discover Puerto Rico worked alongside the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), providing guidance and information to all tourism partners on how to put specific measures in place and ensuring all parties have access to the latest information on COVID-19. That includes the latest prevention tips, cleaning and disinfecting protocols and guidance on dealing with staff and guests experiencing symptoms.
Q: What are the main concerns in the local community and businesses around the idea of reopening tourism? How is Discover Puerto Rico working to address these concerns?
Discover Puerto Rico: One of the largest concerns for local residents and businesses is the potential for cases to grow at more significant rates as tourists visit from areas outside of Puerto Rico with higher-than-normal infection rates.
In an effort to help mitigate this ongoing health threat, Discover Puerto Rico — along with government officials — continually assess the situation on the Island and in the U.S. mainland and have ongoing plans to amplify health and safety regulations, mandates and guidelines, along with new airport arrival protocols.
As a research-based, consumer-focused organization, we are continuously adapting our strategy and making proactive decisions to ensure we set the stage for a major comeback. At this time, Puerto Rico is encouraging only essential travel, and postponed its official inbound tourism reopening in order to safeguard visitors and residents.
It is critical to position Puerto Rico as a safe, secure, healthy destination that travelers will feel confident choosing when the time is right. The Island is enforcing local measures developed by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), alongside U.S. Travel Association (USTA) guidelines, such as social distancing, face coverings in public areas and a variety of mandates for businesses — including, but not limited to, reduced capacities and high standards of cleanliness in accordance with CDC and EPA guidelines.
Q: When tourism reopens, what advice do you have for tourists seeking to find more private, less-populated vacation spots or accommodations in Puerto Rico? What outdoor activities would you recommend that naturally encourage social distancing?
Discover Puerto Rico: For those dreaming about Puerto Rico and planning a trip for when the time is right, the Island is an oasis for natural wonders — rainforests, beaches, vibrant pink salt flats, glamping, golf and 300-plus miles of coastline, which makes it an ideal location for those seeking to keep their distance from others, privacy and outdoor recreation.
Q: Why should American tourists consider Puerto Rico compared to other Caribbean islands for future travel plans (beyond not needing a passport)?
Discover Puerto Rico: Unlike other Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory where U.S. citizens do not require a passport, as you mention. Other conveniences include using the same currency, using your same phone plan, English is widely spoken, health insurance coverage is standard for most carriers and access is easy from many cities across the U.S.
The Island has an abundance of incomparable offerings, including eclectic culture, gastronomy, natural wonders and the arts. Puerto Rico has a unique street art scene, the only rainforest in the U.S. Forest System, El Yunque, and boasts a mixed history of Spanish, African and Taino Indian.
Q: Will there be different regulations for domestic travelers compared to international travelers?
Discover Puerto Rico: For those planning a trip for the when the time is right, all arriving passengers, domestic and international, need to fill out a Travel Declaration Form from the Puerto Rico Health Department and show proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test result (nasal or throat swab) no more than 72 hours prior to visiting the Island. All visitors must comply with the curfew on the Island that is in effect through Aug. 15, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., except for emergencies. Everyone on the Island is also required to wear face masks or face coverings when in public, and are subject to a fine if not.
As a territory of the U.S., Puerto Rico abides by the federal law and the established restrictions of entry for certain travelers to the U.S. apply. For more information, visit the CDC.
Q: What is ONE thing that visitors can do to help responsibly reduce virus spread when Puerto Rico reopens for tourism?
Discover Puerto Rico: When the time is right to book a trip to Puerto Rico, travelers should stay up-to-date with the requisites in place, which can be found within our travel advisory. This includes practicing social distancing and the mandatory use of face masks or coverings in public.
Additionally, prior to visiting, travelers are required to fill out a Travel Declaration Form through the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal, get a molecular COVID-19 test (nasal or throat swab) no more than 72 hours prior visiting the Island and show proof of a negative result or they must quarantine for 14 days.
Q: What would you expect to be the future of tourism in Puerto Rico beyond the coronavirus pandemic?
Discover Puerto Rico: There is no doubt that the travel industry, including destinations, will have changed when we enter a post-COVID world. However, we will adapt. In Puerto Rico, we’re already seeing the growing implementation of new safety measures, as well as new airport protocols.
Another trend we are seeing is the decrease in international travel and a focus on domestic travel. One of the great things about Puerto Rico is that it offers all the commodities of the U.S., with no passport or currency exchange required, with the appeal of an international destination.
And we expect travel insurance to play a bigger role when booking travel as it transitions from what was an option to a priority for most travelers.
Although Puerto Rico is encouraging only essential travel at this time, we’re hoping that with the ease of travel and abundance of health and safety measures in place, the Island will be a top choice when the time is right to visit.
For more information on visitor health and safety guidelines click here.