Tourism in Puerto Rico before the COVID-19 pandemic began, had still been recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the series of earthquakes that affected the island in 2019. Starting in March 2020, quarantine restrictions forced tourism on the island to trickle to a halt. The cruise ship sector was forced to shut down. In August 2021, Puerto Rico received the first cruise ship visitors after 16 months without any activity.
The cruise ship Mardi Gras, of the Carnival Cruise Line, arrived at the San Juan Port, the first cruise to arrive there since March 2020. The government had expected an economic impact of over $1,101,079 during the visit with an estimate of 12,285 passengers or expected spending of $89.72 per passenger. According to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, the total passengers for the 4 cruise ship visits in August were 202 over the estimated total. We can expect a larger economic impact since the cruise Mardi Gras will be returning and projections for the fiscal year 2022 show that San Juan will receive over 300,000 visits just with the Mardi Gras. For November, more cruise ship activity is expected. An agreement was signed on October 2021, with the Explorer of the Seas to use the San Juan port as their base port beginning in November. In addition to this, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is realizing its inaugural trip from San Juan. This will be the first of their 3 yachts trips that the company will undertake, and San Juan is their base port for their trips to the Caribbean, Central and South America. These trips will begin in November and are expected to continue into 2023.
Since the industry is getting back to normal, there are some new trends. New industry movements are based on new and easier experiences. The pandemic has accelerated the use of technology and sectors of society that were not used to technology, have become new users. One report from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) points out that new innovations include apps for better and easier on-board communications, wearable technology for easier access, more open spaces to dine and socialize, and a “smarter home at seas” like smart lighting and virtual views. These concepts are very well recognized in the entertainment industry. New developments like the T-Mobile District in San Juan and The Square at San Patricio mall signal that open and technological spaces are the future. According to the 2019 cruise passenger data the CLIA publishes, the Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda is the most popular destination in the world for cruise ships, and therefore will continue to be in the next year. The CLIA also estimates the average passenger spending in the port before boarding a cruise is $385 and on average while visiting a destination during a cruise is $100. New cruise ships that will stop at San Juan, and the ones that are using it as a home port, will create a significant economic impact in the Puerto Rican economy.