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Storming back: Costa Rica and Puerto Rico weather the COVID-19 crisis

On day two of the virtual LATA Expo conference, tourism chiefs from Costa Rica and Puerto Rico shared lessons learned after having recovered from natural disasters and also what their priorities are going forward including safety, sustainability and the strategy of promoting the whole destination rather than individual regions.

Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico said, “What we have seen in Puerto Rico, time and time again, whether it was hurricanes devastating the island, tropical storms creating massive flooding, the Zika virus, now a pandemic and before this earthquakes, every single time we have realised that tourism is a transformative power of good, not only for the economy but for our communities and our island."

“After Hurricane Maria, which was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States, we were able to rebound and recover tourism and get back above pre-Maria levels in just two years. We focused on promoting the rural areas - outside of those areas with extensive damage - and we promoted the whole island and what it did was disperse visitors. We used the antidote to overtourism to strength the brand. We promoted the art, the history, the culture of the island. That became a competitive strength that we were able to build upon," Mr Dean added.

Mauricio Ventura-Aragón, former minister of tourism of Costa Rica said, “Sustainability for us in Costa Rica is the most important issue. Sustainability for Costa Ricans is part of our DNA. Tourism is a fantastic tool to support sustainability. But more than support sustainability in the old way, which is sustainability equals green, in Costa Rica we move forward from that. We say it’s not only green but it has a human face. That’s the most important part of it."

“We have been promoting Costa Rica - not any particular destination but the whole country - and that’s why in a small country we have a 12-night stay average. For such a small country that is fantastic. Touristic dollars are spread across the country - this is what we believe in terms of tourism,” he added.

Image credit: Lucy Toner/PublicDomainPictures

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