Puerto Rico Reports 2015 Tourism Growth, Forecasts Strong 2016 in Spite of Zika Virus

San Juan Puerto Rico

Although the Zika virus outbreak has created public health concerns across Latin America and the Caribbean, the demand for travel to at least one destination -- Puerto Rico -- remains unwavering, according to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), the territory's official destination marketing organization.

Although it projects a small decrease in hotel bookings over the short term as a result of Zika virus, PRTC said it expects a successful year for tourism in 2016 based on strong bookings in January.

"In September 2016, Puerto Rico will host the 23rd Annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Cruise Conference & Trade Show, drawing in thousands of industry representatives and providing a boost to the economy," PRTC reported. "By the end of 2016, Puerto Rico expects to achieve its goal of 10 million visitors at Puerto Rico airports."

PRTC's confidence is based on annual tourism statistics that it released early this month, revealing a strong year for the island in 2015. For the first time since 2008, it reported, Puerto Rico received more than 5 million visitors at its airports and seaports, resulting in an increase of visitor spending to $3.82 billion, up 20 percent since 2012.

Other 2015 highlights:

• Puerto Rico hotels achieved a record 71 percent occupancy rate and a record average room rate of nearly $157.43 in 2015.

• A record 1.5 million cruise passengers visited Puerto Rico by sea in 2015, up by over 45 percent from 2013.

• Puerto Rico has added 10 new airlines flying to eight new destinations in Puerto Rico.

• Puerto Rico has added 1,000 new hotel rooms since 2013, resulting in a record 15,000 available rooms; additionally, it currently has another roughly 4,000 rooms in the final stages of development and construction.

Concluded PRTC, "With record-breaking numbers in several key tourism categories, 2015 was a banner year for Puerto Rico tourism."

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