Excluded from New CDC Travel Requirement, Puerto Rico is Uniquely Positioned to Welcome U.S. Travelers
January 27 2021 – Travel Market Report.
For those who want to get away to a sun and sand destination, Puerto Rico presents a unique opportunity to experience the Caribbean atmosphere without the hassle of having to meet the CDC’s new international travel requirement.
Starting Tuesday, inbound U.S. travelers will need to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days prior to re-entry.
Given that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, the destination is excluded from the CDC requirement and Americans do not need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result to return back to the mainland United States. All trips to and from Puerto Rico are considered domestic travel, which may alleviate clients’ concerns who wish to travel in the upcoming months.
However, the CDC still recommends getting tested three to five days after arrival and staying home for seven days post-travel.
“Puerto Rico is in a unique position that caters to the desire for a change of pace and the feel of an international destination, with the safety and comfort that comes with domestic travel.” Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, told Travel Market Report.
Dean cautioned that while Puerto Rico exempt from the latest CDC ruling, quarantine mandates, recommendations, and entry requirements may vary by state, and travelers should keep that in mind.
Travelers entering the island are still required to fill out a Travel Declaration Form through the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal, get a molecular COVID-19 test (nasal or throat swab) no more than 72 hours prior to visiting, and show proof of a negative result or they must quarantine.
“We are working to ensure that we are reaching the right type of traveler at the right moment and strategically opening the flow of tourists when the Island was ready and reducing the flow in alignment with health and safety efforts,” Dean said. “By targeting travelers who follow best practices in terms of social distancing, wearing masks, following arrival requirements, and pursuing ways to enjoy our beautiful Island safely, we’re positioning Puerto Rico to come back from this pandemic more quickly and stronger than our competitors.”
Puerto Rico faces a unique challenge because travelers must fly to reach it, compared to other popular tourist destinations on the mainland, so airlines safety measures directly affect the Puerto Rican tourism industry, Dean told TMR.
Another challenge to Puerto Rico’s tourism ecosystem is the halt of cruising, affecting in port cities like San Juan and Ponce in the south.
Dean said the island will focus on alternative offerings within the destination. Popular attractions like the El Morro and San Cristóbal forts, located in the historic Old San Juan, will reopen in the coming weeks with new COVID-19 safety measures in place, like reservations for groups larger than 10, masks, social distancing and cashless transactions. El Morro opens Jan. 24 followed by San Cristóbal Jan. 31.
Dean said that since many of the attractions exist within the setting of warm weather year-round, outdoor activities are at the forefront and activities that lend themselves to COVID-19 best practices, such as social distancing, will be highlighted in each region.
Similar to other destinations who have seen a drastic drop in tourism revenue, Puerto Rico is also inviting remote workers.
“We are also promoting remote work from the Island, which Puerto Rico makes easier than our competitors as U.S. citizens do not require a visa to enter or currency exchange,” Dead noted. “Long-term travel for remote workers is a great way to stimulate the local economy and allow for a change of scenery for the digital nomads.”
“In combination with rising COVID-19 cases across the country and the rollout of the vaccines, travel in general has slowed in the short-term as people adapt to the changes in protocols and day-to-day life,” Dean said, but added that data shows consumers are highly receptive to travel inspiration and expects that to transition into more bookings as 2021 continues.
“Puerto Rico is a resilient destination who’s strongest asset is its people. We have come back stronger than ever from natural disasters, political unrest and we are confident that this will be no different.”
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Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.