Puerto Rico Wants to Become the Aviation Hub of the Caribbean

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Puerto Rico is looking to attract new tourists to its pristine beaches and natural wonders, but it will need to reach markets outside of the northeast U.S., where 90 percent of its tourists currently come from, in order to do so, as Samanthat Shankman reports in this article for Shift.com. Here’s an excerpt. For the full report follow the link below.

In an effort to diversify and expand its tourist based, Ingrid Rivera, the Government of Puerto Rico’s head of travel and tourism, is focused on access — specifically the planes and boats that bring visitors to the Caribbean island.

“We are looking to diversify by improving air access,” says Rivera. “Once you have air access, vacations become easier, business transactions become easier.”

Air access to Puerto Rico has been steadily improving over the past year and a half.

Spanish company Air Europa started two weekly flights from Madrid to San Juan in May 2014, the first direct flights between the two capitals in several years.  Direct flights between Mexico and Puerto Rico started for the first time in 13 years in May 2013. And Avianca recently started flights between Bogota and San Juan. Frequency is expected to reach 5 flights a week by the end of the year.

Rivera’s goal is to boost airport arrivals from 8.4 million to 10 million annual passengers and progress is already being made. In the first four months of 2014, Puerto Rico already experienced a 2.2 percent increase in passengers, for a total of 60,000 passengers.

But to become a hub, Puerto Rico needs to provide airlines and travelers an easy transfer to other Caribbean islands.

To this effort, the government encouraged Seaborne to change its headquarters from St. Croix to Puerto Rico. Through partnerships with American Airlines and JetBlue, Seaborne is able to connect flyers coming from the states to small islands with minimal hassle for customers.

Puerto Rico also attributes at least part of its air traffic growth to its its latest marketing campaign in which TripAdvisor reviews are read by local celebrities and spread around social media.

Another major focus for Puerto Rico’s tourism minister is drawing more cruise ships and their passengers to land, even just for a day at a time.

[ . . .]

Although a large effort is being put towards improving the country’s tourism infrastructure and attracting new visitors, tourism only makes up 6 percent of Puerto Rico’s GNP. Manufacturing is the most prominent industry, accounting for more than 40 percent of the country’s GNP.

For the original report go to http://skift.com/2014/06/27/puerto-rico-wants-to-become-the-aviation-hub-of-the-caribbean/

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