Many have seen the devastation in Puerto Rico reported in the news since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico as a high-end Category 4 hurricane on September 20. Who can forget the people pleading for water and food? During IMEX 2017, held in Las Vegas October 10-12, I had the honor to interview Milton Segarra, the president and CEO of Meet Puerto Rico, the lead, nonprofit organization established in 1962 to bring meetings, conventions, trade shows and incentive groups to Puerto Rico.
Segarra’s goal is to share the truth about the current situation, but at the same time share the recovery plan and Puerto Rico’s bright future. “All the information we are presenting to the public, the media and our clients have two sources: government, either local or federal, and the hotels,” he stated. “It is important to understand that our hotels are open right now and not just for tourists. The types of guests they are housing are first responders, FEMA government, employees and construction employees who came to help,” says Segarra. “The hotels have made projections that they will have their properties in top shape, or at least in a level to accept new reservations, by January.” Segarra adds, “By the time the hotels decide to reopen to new reservations, the overall condition of the main tourism areas will be in a position to accept clients and enjoy the facilities of the hotel and the nearby attractions and facilities. The overall San Juan metropolitan area experience will be in a better shape to be experienced.”
There are those who would ask how can the hotels be ready to accept guests when most of the island does not have electricity and communication and, in some cases, food and water? The impact was equally devastating, all around. However, the recovery in the metropolitan area, where most of the hotels are located, is faster than the rest of the country, because the government center, the main medical center, the central police and banks are headquartered in San Juan, so all the resources went there first,” he answered. “Puerto Rico needed to strengthen their infrastructure first, in order to do all the logistics of the rescue of all Puerto Rico, as a consequence of that the hotels in the bay area recovery was faster … due to all the resources. Also each hotel has power generators and water reservoir. The hotels are also paying for their recovery faster, so they are not relying on the government. All restoration and reconstruction will have to be paid by each hotel. I have faith that Puerto Rico will recover from this setback. The government has a clear mission on how to fix and then stimulate economic activity so the entire flow of dollars moves across the island.”
During IMEX America 2017 at the Puerto Rico booth, they asked attendees to give them ideas so they can rebuild their tourism better and stronger, demonstrating leadership and a great future. The destination plans to be in an excellent position to welcome clients starting Jan. 1, 2018. Tourism is a big part of the economic structure of Puerto Rico. They are relying on tourism. Be a part of the recovery … bring tourism to Puerto Rico.
For updates, visit www.meetpuertorico.com, http://www.meetpuertorico.com/nav/media/puerto-rico-travel-update. To see the president of Puerto Rico speaking, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dgK0fjyWFo.
Calanit Atia, is an Air Force veteran, founder and president of A to Z Events, an award winning event planner, Las Vegas ambassador, social media maven, columnist, and speaker. She can be contacted at