Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Assoc. requests relief from certain anti-Covid measures

By on September 9, 2020

Request softer restrictions for restaurants, as hotel occupancy hovers at 9 percent

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA) Chairman Pablo Torres and other tourism sector representatives called on Gov. Wanda Vázquez to include new amendments to the executive order aimed at addressing the needs of the island’s tourism industry “so that thousands of workers can return to work and help push the economy forward.”

At a roundtable with several media outlets at the San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel in the Isla Verde area of Carolina, the representatives asked the governor to reopen beaches, casinos, access to pools and jacuzzis at hotels, and allow for limited tour excursions to take place. They also called for allowing restaurants to run at 75 percent capacity, lifting their alcohol sales restriction and allowing them to open to the public on Sundays.

The latest Covid-related executive order is slated to go into effect Saturday, Sept. 12. The governor is expected to announce any changes to the executive order within the next few days.

Joaquin Bolivia, owner of the San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel; Miguel Vega, president and CEO of HI Development Puerto Rico Corp.; and PRHTA Chairman Pablo Torres (CB/María Miranda)

“Once again, we are expressing ourselves so that our requests are included in the measures that will be taken, as it has been six months since the pandemic [hit] and we need to find a balance between the people’s health and moving our economy [forward],” Torres said. “It is well known that the infections that are taking place are not related to the island’s tourism activities.”

Torres noted that practically all economic activity related to hotels, casinos and tours have ceased, while thousands of jobs have been lost. 

“Our labor force has been affected the most,” he said, adding that tourism in Puerto Rico represents more than 80,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“We could say that 80 percent [of workers] are currently out of a job,” he stressed. “Many of them were under a temporary suspension. After three months, they are automatically laid off and after six months the employer is not obligated to rehire the staff.”

Some half a dozen letters have been sent to the governor’s office at La Fortaleza with the PRHTA’s recommendations, “and as an industry to be able to achieve harmony between the sectors,” Torres added.

PRHTA CEO Clarisa Jímenez said that the group’s associates have invested a “titanic amount of money” to comply with all the protocols to keep their staff and visitors healthy. 

PRHTA CEO Clarisa Jímenez (Courtesy)

The sector representatives acknowledged that there have been certain tourists who have not complied with the executive order, including the mask mandate.

Water & Beach Club owner Joaquín Bolivar told Caribbean Business that when visitors arrive at his hotel, they are told about the executive order, the use of masks and even “give them masks” if they don’t have one.

“We have had to tell some visitors that they cannot stay with us if they don’t abide by the executive order,” Bolivar said, adding that rooms are disinfected twice a day and only two people may use the elevator at the same time. 

The restaurant area has also been spaced out so tables are 6-feet apart, among other health safety measures put in place at the hotel. 

There is an about 9 percent hotel occupancy on the island as many travelers cancel their trips when they are told beaches, pools, tours and other activities are not allowed yet, Bolivar noted.