An increase in the number of agricultural businesses certified by the government to join Puerto Rico´s tourist offers shows new ways to encourage the development of the tourism economy.

The interest of the agricultural sector in welcoming tourists has translated into twenty farms certified by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and fifteen other applications in the process of approval. These businesses are in Adjuntas, Barceloneta, Manatí, San Lorenzo, Jayuya, Mayagüez, Aguada, Ponce, Hatillo, Lares, Las Marías and Vega Baja.

This is good news. It is time for rural areas to become part of the island's tourist attractions, because of the rich range of unique activities they can offer to both international and domestic tourists.

Developing the combination of agriculture and tourism, including ecotourism and adventure tourism offers, can also provide for the revitalization of rural areas if a greater flow of tourists moved to these areas. It is the responsibility of the government to promote this new agro-tourism offer, along with the tourism industry.

Puerto Rico should capitalize on new trends, marked by a greater awareness and sensitivity to the environment and by the will to share authentic experiences with the people who live in the destinations selected.

The Parque de Aventuras Toro Verde, in Orocovis, is an example. Its main attraction, the 2.5-kilometer zipline over the mountains, called "El Monstruo," (The Monster), the longest zipline in America and the second in the world ,is one of the most visited attractions. The Tonight Show Starring team Jimmy Fallon included The Monster when they brought the show to Puerto Rico. Two million people in the United States saw those beautiful mountain views. 90 percent of our visitors come from the United States.

For tourists from other regions, especially those focused on the environment, this represents a new opportunity to learn about the Caribbean and its resources. The agricultural activity and the wide range of rural recreational and cultural activities in our municipalities will become unique experiences for local and international visitors.

Access routes to the farms and agribusinesses offer marvelous landscapes that serve as a framework for direct contact with nature and residents. Many of the farms have restaurants and places where visitors can enjoy the local gastronomy and patio drinks, in addition to learning how to grow coffee, cocoa, breadfruit, and vegetables.

Walks, hiking, product demonstrations, and other activities, will allow visitors to learn about agricultural chores, whether it´s sowing or making products for sale. Including festivals, festivities and cultural events of the mountain or rural areas in coastal municipalities offers the opportunity to show our roots and the richness of our traditions.

Many of the certified agribusinesses are small and medium-sized and supply their fresh products to supermarkets, restaurants and hotels. Others are already offering educational activities. This will serve as a platform for business expansion through agrotourism. It can generate additional income and employment opportunities.

Developing projects that link tourism, agriculture and the environment requires coordinated action between government and businesses. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company has rightly set standardized criteria for the certification of these companies. It is the way to ensure quality of services for tourists. At the same time, the government launch program early this year with incentives of $75,000 for agro-tourism companies.

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