11 JUL 2019: When Canadians think about Puerto Rico these days we tend to think of San Juan and even then, we consider it as primarily a cruise destination, or we remember the horrific devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. But of course, it’s far more than that, and Discover Puerto Rico were in town this week to catch us up on what’s happening, and remind us that Puerto Rico has lots to offer.

The big news is that 2020 will be the year of celebrations, as San Juan, a UNESCO World Heritage listed city and one of the oldest cities in the US celebrates its 500 year history.

San Juan encapsulates the rich cultural identity of Puerto Rico which is comprised of Taino (an Arawak culture, indigenous to the Caribbean and Florida), African and Spanish traditions. It is a vibrant city, with unique architecture, colourful streets, lively restaurants and bars. Music is everywhere and fetes, fairs and festivals take place throughout the year.

This will only increase with 2020 celebrations. One major event is the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit in April at the Puerto Rico Convention Centre in San Juan where Puerto Rico will play host to WTTC members from around the world. Top executives from leading travel and tourism companies will attend, as will a significant number of media, giving Puerto Rico a huge opportunity to raise global awareness of the social and economic role of travel and tourism in the country.

And getting there from here is getting easier. Air Canada and WestJet both fly to San Juan and there is possibly more to come. And entry requirements for Canadians are the same as those of the US.

San Juan airport saw a 23.8% year-over-year increase in air traffic, in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first three months of 2018. And if Canadians tend to think of it as a cruise destination – well, it is -
with new cruise ships including Celebrity Edge, Virgin Voyages, Disney Cruises and Viking adding San Juan to their itineraries and offering over 119 cruise shore excursions for travellers to enjoy.

Then there are a significant number of new hotels: Dorado Beach (a Ritz-Carlton Reserve), Boho Beach Club, Cabo Roho, Condado Plaza Hilton, Hotel Mi Terra, O:LV Fifty-Five and Pitahaya Glamping Eco-Retreat.

If that’s not enough, upcoming hotels include: The Ritz Carlton San Juan - 2019, ALOFT Hotel Ponce – Dec 2019, El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort – 2020, Four Seasons Cavo Largo -2020, Zafira St Clair – 2020.

Also on offer are Paradores, (bed and breakfasts, and small inns - a network of family-owned hotels located outside the metropolitan area of San Juan, HomeAway, Join a Join, and Airbnb. In all, 157 hotel options are open and accepting reservations.

Between January – April 2019 occupancy spending reached $373.6 million, the highest in the past eight years.

San Juan’s hottest new entertainment district is a vibrant and popular setting for events and conventions. Set in five acres the district includes restaurants, zip-lines, indoor training and security facilities, a 6,000 capacity auditorium, eight premium movie theatres, bars, restaurants, lounges and the first- ever day/night disco.

LGBT travellers ae not always welcomed in some of the Islands – there are no worries of that nature in Puerto Rico which is rapidly becoming the LGBT capital of the Caribbean. Named LGBTQ Destination of the Year by Gaycities.com 2018, same-sex marriage is legal, there are two Pride events and LGBT beaches, bars, nightlife.

And the icing on the cake: West Side Story 2020.

Steven Spielberg has directed an adaptation of the iconic Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical of the same name – a remake of the popular 1961 film adaptation starring Natalie Wood, the film will star Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler. Expect a blockbuster.

It’s time to re-discover Puerto Rico.

1a_puertorico

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