by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | July 30, 2019
Puerto Rico faces yet another challenge on its road to recovery. This time it is political protest, not a major hurricane, that poses a potential threat to the island's tourism image, which the U.S. territory has struggled to repair since 2017, when it was decimated by Hurricane Maria.
Last week, after two weeks of intense demonstrations in the Old San Juan area by hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, the governor announced he would officially leave office on Aug. 2. As of yet, it is still undecided who will replace him, as several possible contenders for the post also have resigned or declined to accept it.
The protests erupted after the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism published a series of offensive text message exchanges between the governor and his inner circle of aides and advisers, ridiculing fellow politicians and journalists, and even poking fun at the hurricane victims.
According to several media outlets, the protests are expected to continue as the island's government continues to reel from the fallout of the scandal. And yet, Discover Puerto Rico, the island's destination marketing organization, which was set up by Rosselló in one of his first acts as governor, reports that tourism business is thriving.
"The mission of the DMO will continue despite political shifts," said Brad Dean, chief executive officer of Discover Puerto Rico in an emailed statement to Northstar. "We have been closely monitoring the events of the last two weeks and are committed to the success of meetings and events in Puerto Rico. We are thankful for the ongoing trust and collabortion from our industry partners and have even welcomed groups onto the island during this time, at several hotels and at our convention center. No interruptions to scheduled group activity have been brought to our attention."
However, Dean did concede that while the island's hotels reported minimal interruptions, the cancellations by four cruise ships to the island during the protests likely resulted in a loss of around $2.5 million in tourism spend.

Earlier this month, Discover Puerto Rico, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, announced the destination was tracking toward a record-breaking year. In the first four months of 2019, the island received 1.67 million visitors, who generated $445 million in revenue, the highest in the island's history.
In addition, group bookings for meetings and incentives are the highest since 2015, with Discover Puerto Rico estimating over $92M in economic impact of business already signed for 2019, with another $288M of potential revenue in the pipeline.
"Our ultimate objective is to put the transformative power of travel to work in Puerto Rico by doubling the visitor economy and continuing to benefit the Island's residents and businesses. It's critical to ensure we have the right resources to continue this momentum," said Dean.