On the ground in San Juan: Post-Fiona tourism review : Travel Weekly

Andrea Zelinsky

Andrea Zelinsky

After Hurricane Fiona slammed into Puerto Rico, I asked cruise lines if they would skip over San Juan as it recovers from the Category 1 storm.

I thought the island would not be ready for visitors. I figured the people here wouldn’t want tourists as they put the pieces of their homes back together and their lives turned upside down by another storm.

I was wrong. As I emailed the cruise lines asking what their plans were, they told me that they would – of course – call there if possible, and that it was important to bring tourists who could help the economy.

I was due to be there exactly two weeks after Hurricane Fiona landed to join the Seabourn Venture en route to Bridgetown, Barbados, and departure went as planned. Just before that, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s annual Marketplace conference summoned to San Juan.

In my first season reporting on hurricanes and the cruise industry, I had little experience of the Caribbean’s resilience to the storms that for years trampled their islands.

While San Juan missed the worst of the hurricane, I could see from the air that my plane was descending houses with torn roofs and one with the roof missing entirely. But once in the city, it was hard to tell that such a devastating storm had swept through. Everywhere I went seemed as open and welcoming as I could have imagined, with shops and restaurants open. I wanted to buy a hat.

I dined at the Caribe Hilton, where I was meeting my travel companion, and my server told me that the hotel had electricity but at some point lost its AC and had to shut down. He said many of the people who worked there were struggling at home, especially with electricity. He said he gets fed for about a day and then loses it for several hours at a time, making it difficult to return to normal life. How do you count on the survival of the food in your fridge if the power keeps going out?

The San Juan Daily StarThe title of the first page was “Breathless Patience” because the town of Caguas, south of San Juan, has just 70% of his restored power. In the newspaper I read about the extension of a housing assistance program for those affected by the storms and the growing frustration with the instability of power and politics to obtain the resources that people need.

Days before I arrived here, Discover Puerto Rico resumed paid advertising to attract visitors, with plans to spend $2.9 million by the end of the year, the newspaper reported.

The island is suffering, but being so dependent on tourism, it can be good to have visitors here to speed up the recovery. My server said he was glad the tourists were coming back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *