by Monica Poling
Last updated: 8:51 PM ET, Sat September 23, 2017
If you're planning a trip to Puerto Rico in the coming weeks, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company -the official tourism marketing arm for the Caribbean destination-has a message for you.
"We're here to keep you informed."
To back up that claim, the agency has released the number of a traveler support hotline, 787-522-5960 and an online messenger. Both are a big deal in a region that lost 1,360 of its 1,600 cell phone towers and 85 percent of its phone and internet cables. (h/t Associated Press)
While there are signs that the tourism industry is slowly formulating a plan after the devastating strike by Hurricane Maria, for now, Puerto Rico is mostly focused on the "safety and security of everyone on the island, including all of our visitors," said Jose Izquierdo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. "We're working closely with other state and federal government agencies and collaborating with our industry partners to identify immediate needs across the island.
While the industry takes stock, however, the San Juan International Airport has reopened for commercial traffic. Through Monday, flights are being operated on a limited basis (from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT), but the airport expects to get back to a normal operating schedule by mid-week.
Ten flights were scheduled to arrive and depart on Saturday and Sunday, including service from American Airlines, Delta JetBlue and Spirit. Those flights that did land in San Juan this weekend were carrying supplies and relief workers.
It's a first step, but full it could be a while before the island sees planes loaded with tourists.
Research company FactSet estimates that Puerto Rico could lose around 1.5 million air passengers and some 700,000 hotel reservations in the coming months.
While many of the island's hotels are still assessing the damage, some have said they hope to start accepting new reservations as early as next weekend.
[READMORE]READ MORE: USVI Can't Afford to be Forgotten Post-Irma[/READMORE]
Eight Hilton properties, including Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino, El Conquistador, Las Casitas at El Conquistador, Caribe Hilton, Hilton Condado Lagoon Villas, Embassy Suites Isla Verde, Hampton Inn Isla Verde and DoubleTree Hotel San Juan (Ave. De Diego) have announced they will begin accepting new reservations on September 30.
Hyatt properties, including Hyatt Place and Hyatt House in San Juan (Convention Center), are hoping to start accepting new reservations by October 15. Hyatt Hacienda del Mar is eyeing October 22 as the date it re-opens its books.
Hotel Miramar has said it continues to take care of guests while the O:live Boutique Hotel noted that it did not suffer any structural damage and is using its generator and water reserve to remain open. El Canario By the Lagoon suffered no damage but will remain closed until power and water are restored and La Concha Hotel, A Renaissance Resort is fixing damage to public areas and has temporarily closed its reservations systems for certain dates.
Meanwhile, the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino has also announced it that it only sustained minor damage as a result of the storm and is open and operational. In a statement, the property said it is "currently supporting neighbors and the local community by accommodating disaster relief workers" and that it will begin taking individual guest reservations starting October 31.
International Hospitality Enterprises (IHE), has announced that its six hotels and resorts in San Juan, Puerto Rico --Hotel El Convento, Condado Vanderbilt, La Concha, Doubletree by Hilton San Juan, Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort and Condado Palm Inn and Suites--all safely withstood Hurricane Maria. Several of the properties are hosting various federal groups and relief agencies and room reservations are temporarily being managed by each property individually. They expect to be fully operational to visitors within in the next 30 days.
"We are resilient and confident that Puerto Rico will quickly recover," said Peter Hopgood, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for International Hospitality Enterprises. "Our hearts and thoughts are with all who have been affected in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean during this unprecedented hurricane season."
Other properties face a tougher uphill battle, including Condado Plaza Hilton; Curio Collection by Hilton; El San Juan Hotel; Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar Beach Resort; Ritz-Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach; Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino; St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico; W Retreat in Vieques; and Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort have announced they are not accepting new reservations at this time.
The Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, also known as Meet Puerto Rico, has announced that it is working with industry partners to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Maria and keep stakeholders informed.
"Meet Puerto Rico appreciate the outpouring of concern from our partners, clients and media colleagues," said Milton Segarra, president & CEO, CDME of Meet Puerto Rico in an official statement. "Our team is safe and taking care of our families while our hotel partners are keeping our guests safe. Our industry's hurricane plans are in effect-with damage assessment already underway.
"We are currently working with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) and the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association (PRHTA ) to assess damages and will provide an accurate update as soon as possible. We thank you again for your concern and will be in touch as soon as we have the official update."
At least one organization, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), has announced it plans to hold its annual meeting in Puerto Rico as scheduled in early November.
"The Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) stands strong with Puerto Rico and surrounding islands in this time of distress," wrote the organization on its official meeting page. "SSSS intends to host its 60th anniversary Annual Meeting, Nov. 9-12, in San Juan, PR. We will continue to monitor the situation and will advise accordingly as we receive information from our local contacts.
For the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, the island's future is all one thing: the resiliency of the people of Puerto Rico.
"We are confident that Puerto Rico will quickly recover and the resiliency and strength of our people will get us through the days ahead," said Izquierdo.
He also noted that any support is greatly appreciated and information on making a difference can be found at United for Puerto Rico, an initiative developed by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló.
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