Here are the cold, hard facts about Puerto Rico’s debt crisis: Unsustainable debt of more than $70 billion. One in six people are unemployed. The wealth of many households and local businesses has depleted. More than a decade of poor, stagnant economic conditions. A documented history of failed economic strategies and policies.
Although this paints a grim picture, the future can be bright again for Puerto Rico if tourism expansion is used as a primary strategy for economic recovery. Puerto Rico needs an aggressive tourism marketing strategy as well as a tourism investment program to update and expand its current hotel inventory.
Tourism can help stimulate Puerto Rico’s economy by increasing demand, encouraging spending and creating jobs, which will generate revenue for the government to pay off its debt. Other Caribbean islands, such as the Dominican Republic, have leveraged their natural resources to build a strong tourism sector that supports job creation and economic growth.
This is the optimal time for tourism expansion in Puerto Rico. The U.S. economy is getting stronger and the Caribbean is the most desired foreign vacation choice for Americans. However, despite desirability, Puerto Rico has lost its competitive edge to other regional destinations and as a result, has ceded market share. Outdated hotel inventory is also a contributing factor – very few hotel rooms have been added to the island over the last 20 years.
The bottom line is Puerto Rico has a great product; they just have to sell it better than ever before. The future of the island depends on it.
Dr. Robertico Croes is associate dean, administration and finance, and interim chair of the Department of Tourism, Events & Attractions at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He is also the author of The Small Island Paradox: Tourism specialization as a potential solution. Dr. Croes can be reached at Robertico.Croes@ucf.edu.
Visit Rosen College’s website to learn more about hospitality management education at UCF.