(El Nuevo Día)

Tourism is one of the most valuable assets for development Puerto Rico has. Initiatives to increase the number of hotel rooms and incentives to attract visitors bring the necessary incentives in the face of the new wave of cancellations triggered by the recent earthquakes.

Tourism generates some 77,000 jobs and has great potential to generate more throughout the island, if we focus on the great natural, cultural and gastronomic wealth of the island

The Marriott International hotel chain, with 30 world-renowned brands, plans to open five more hotels in two years. The company already has about 1,800 employees in 12 hotels, some run under local franchise owners. The announcement is a sign of confidence in Puerto Rico as a premium guest.

The company's announcement joins a new partnership between the Puerto Rico Hotel Association and Discover Puerto Rico (DMO) to offer incentives that will attract and extend the stay of tourists in several hotels. The timely joint effort deserves to be expanded to include new hotels, as well as inns that offer variety to the industry.

Last year, reports by international media revealed that today's travelers are more aware and sensitive to their destinations. They are looking for local identity, to connect with people and their environment. They tend to choose ecotourism, agrotourism and participate in volunteer work. Puerto Rico has a lot to offer in all those areas.

According to a survey of travelers conducted by the Planning Board about a year ago, most of the people who visited the island in 2017 were American women. Back then, according to estimates, they spent, on average, more than $800 each. Those who rented homes spent almost $3,000 and stayed on the island for up to 12 days. Most come on vacation, shop and eat in restaurants, go to bars or pubs, walk, go to the beach and do water activities. They also enjoy the nightlife, concerts, and ecotourism.

The survey provided helpful data to develop strategies seeking to integrate urban, energy and labor planning, among other areas, to make the most of the natural and human resources in each area.

As part of the island's recovery efforts, there is an opportunity to integrate and strengthen services to take advantage of regional attractions leading to growth at a local level. With a sustainable vision, it is possible to diversify accommodation and generate new opportunities in areas that have generally been left behind and, therefore, impoverished.

Boosting tourism also depends on the island having a reliable power grid, safe roads, and transportation, as well as an enthusiastic, ethical and skilled workforce.

Since the devastation caused by the hurricanes two years ago, Puerto Rico has called the international attention and solidarity to the point of attracting new visitorsdriven by the desire to contribute to its precarious economy. However, the seismic activity associated with the January 7 earthquake and its impact on the southern area has somehow affected the island's tourism boom. As was the case back then, the island has all the conditions to turn this hard experience into a new opportunity.

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