by Loren G. Edelstein | June 04, 2019
Out of adversity comes opportunity, and Puerto Rico is taking that concept very seriously. Plans call for major investment, including hopes to double the island's hotel inventory to 30,000 rooms, said the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló. "I want you to envision Puerto Rico as a blank canvas," he told the media at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York City. "It is our opportunity to reinvent ourselves."
Billions in federal funds are earmarked for Puerto Rico's recovery from 2017's hurricanes, Irma and Maria (although how much money and when it will be received are contentious questions). That money will be put to good use: "We will harden our infrastructure and make sure we have a better, stronger energy grid," said Rosselló. "We want to sustain our folks in Puerto Rico. I see the opportunity not only to rebuild what was there, but to build a community that is resilient and can withstand any number of natural insults."
    
The island already has made solid infrastructure upgrades, launched a new destination marketing organization and campaign, reopened 90 percent of its affected hotel inventory, and committed to opening a slate of new properties and venues.
    
"Puerto Rico is on a path not only to recover, but to be the most exciting place to invest in all of our region," said the governor. The program "Invest Puerto Rico" aims to sweeten such deals. "We have established some of the most competitive incentives, with tourism tax credits that now range from 30 to 40 percent, whereas in the past it was only 10 percent," Rosselló added. The program identifies a number of "opportunity zones" that are ripe for development. To date, 10 projects are being evaluated.
    
"We see the opportunity to double the impact of tourism on our island. Our goal is to double our inventory to 30,000 rooms on the island," he said. Puerto Rico can become "the connector of the Americas," added the governor. "It's part of the U.S., no passports are needed, and we share a culture with Latin America."

The weather patterns that created such havoc are top of mind. "Right now, climate change has become the major issue of our times," said Rosselló. To address that threat, last week the governor signed into law a climate-change initiative that calls for the island to reduce its carbon emissions 50 percent in the next five years, and transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The law also intends to cut the amount of waste entering landfills by 60 percent by 2030, and calls for planting 500,000 trees within five years.

Puerto Rico's reinvention will create jobs at all levels -- and local talent will fill those roles, Rosselló stressed: "Puerto Rico is a state that empowers people. That is our path forward."