Interview By : Angela Ogg, Contributing Editor for Travel Professional NEWS® Interviewing: Carla Campos, Senior Acting Executive Director, The Puerto Rico Tourism Company First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to speak with us in regards to the current situation in Puerto Rico. In a recent article, we learned of Meaningful Travel and after all of the devastation from the Hurricanes last year, we are excited to learn of ways that we can all help. Can you please describe some of the catastrophic damage created by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the social unrest it caused on September 20, 2016. As of right now, how is Puerto Rico’s state and how is the community handling it? The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) continues to collaborate with other government agencies and industry partners to ensure that the vital contribution the tourism industry provides to the economic development of the Island holds steady and continues to grow. The great progress we have shown in the tourism sector is a sign of the resiliency and strength of our people and confidence that travel partners have in us as a destination that has it all. In fact, this past December 20th, the PRTC announced that the Island is officially open for tourism – just in time for travelers to experience the longest holiday season in the world. In a recent article, it mentioned that people could visit Puerto Rico and actually help rebuilding efforts in December, will there be other opportunities in the New Year to help as well? If so, how long will the public have this opportunity to help? The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) is inviting travelers to be part of the Island’s comeback with a “Meaningful Travel” initiative, inviting locals, Puerto Ricans abroad, and others to travel with a purpose to Puerto Rico this holiday season. The initiative was launched in response to the high demand from loyal travelers wanting to help while also visiting. Travelers can visit See Puerto Rico’sFacebook page for updates on upcoming Rebuild Days and SeePuertoRico.com for a list of local organizations who are also organizing rebuilding efforts. Previously, we’ve held Rebuild Days in locations such as Camuy Cave Park, Crash Boat Beach and Seven Seas. Can travelers assist just by visiting Puerto Rico? Tourism is a vital contributor to the Island’s economy. And you’re right, travelers can best support the Island right now by visiting, staying at hotels and other accommodations, eating at restaurants and buying from local businesses. 122 of 149 PRTC endorsed hotels are open and operating. Island-wide, more than 4,000 restaurants are taking orders and serving up delicious cuisine. 107 tourist attractions are open, as well. For the latest updates on operating hotels, open attractions and more, travelers can visit puertoriconow.seepuertorico.com/. What other things can our readers do if they are unable to go on these trips? They can help us spread the word that we’re back and ready to welcome visitors with open arms. And, for people who want to help but are unable to visit, we suggest donating to Unidos Por Puerto Rico. How else can we make sure the Puerto Rico isn’t forgotten and is taken care of? Puerto Rico has so much to offer visitors to leave them enchanted; everything from beaches to historical sites and museums, to a booming arts scene, to amazing an culinary scene, just to name a few. It’s about offering people experiences that will give them memories for a lifetime. The best way to help Puerto Rico is by visiting Puerto Rico. Thankfully, San Juan continues to progress every day and is to welcome visitors who want to enjoy what we have to offer right now. Tourism helps support the Island’s economy while we rebuild a stronger, better Puerto Rico. It’s the support from our travel partners, like cruise and airlines and their visitors that will help get us there that much faster. Lonely Planet kept San Juan on its “Best in Travel” 2018 list for a reason, and that’s because despite some recent challenges, San Juan has so much to offer. Visit us and be a part of the comeback! What are the plans for the future of Puerto Rico and what can we expect for the year 2018? Puerto Rico is incredibly excited to continue to welcome travelers in 2018. Last week, the Island welcomed Brian Kelly, The Points Guy and Forbes’ No. 1 Travel Influencer of 2017. Brian brought 15 of his staff, and another nine travel influencers came along to be a part of the comeback. The group experienced the traditional Three Kings Day festivities in Juana Diaz, visited the Puerto Rico Children’s Hospital and helped rebuild the colorful community in La Perla, located on the shore of Old San Juan. La Perla has become a tourist attraction for visitors looking to get a glimpse of this community where the record-breaking summer hit song “Despacito” was filmed. In partnership with Love in Motion, Local Guest’s non-profit focused on providing the necessary tools and empowerment through hope and education for the development of community-based tourism in the Caribbean region, and in collaboration with the Asociación Impacto Comunitario La Perla Inc., Casa Sol and Wanderlust Tours, we joined local efforts already underway to help revitalize the iconic La Perla neighborhood. With this group trip to Puerto Rico, Brian is hoping to send a message to travelers everywhere that traveling to destinations impacted by natural disasters, like Puerto Rico, is the best way to take in the most meaningful travel experiences in 2018. Thank you so much for your time Carla, we wish nothing for the best to you and the entire community of Puerto Rico on your efforts and rebuilding. Editor’s Note: Five months after devastating Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the country continues to contend for restoration. Over 3.4 million residents are still struggling to carry through their day to day lives. A third of the country is still left in darkness without power, while hospitals are maintaining to work in harsh conditions, and hundreds of schools are still closed. It is absolutely heartbreaking to envision what the people of Puerto Rico are going through and still have to face. The plan for complete restoration of power is scheduled to happen in May. Many individuals have been moved by this horrific event and have offered help, but Puerto Rico still has a long way to go. Anything helps and everything goes a long way.