It has been a little over a year since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico and caused widespread damage. A lot has happened in the country since last September, and Courier caught up with Jorge Pardo of San Juan-based Vámonos Tours to get an update on how things are going.
Courier: What is the status of Puerto Rico, in terms of tourism, since the hurricane?
Pardo: Our island has been open for business since December 2017. After being closed for two months due to the hurricane, we started offering our company’s cultural immersion tours again in late December. Since then, we’ve hosted hundreds of student and adult travelers.
Courier: Talk about your company’s involvement in the recovery efforts.
Pardo: We raised over $23,000 as part of our hurricane relief efforts. Through the fund, our staff purchased and delivered much-needed goods and food to affected communities right after the hurricane. In addition, we donated items, repaired schools and homes, and brought in groups that got involved in all kinds of rebuilding projects.
Courier: What would you say to tour operators thinking about taking groups to Puerto Rico?
Pardo: I would advise them to follow the steps of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who decided to bring “Hamilton” to Puerto Rico two months after Hurricane Maria hit us so hard. He realized that the best thing he could do was to bring revenue and revitalize our economy and then continue to encourage people to visit. And, from Jan. 8–26, 2019, “Hamilton” will be performed in Puerto Rico with Lin-Manuel reprising his award-winning role.
Moreover, I urge all group leaders and tour operators to come and inspect our island, even if they just visit it for two days. I guarantee they will be amazed at the unbelievable contrast between what the media portrays and the comfort and the true recovered status of Puerto Rico.
Top photo: Houses in Old San Juan
Photo by CC Wikimedia Commons/Brad Clinesmith: bit.ly/2r4LECt