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Tourism in Puerto Rico unfazed by blackout

Isla Culebra, Puerto Rico, kayaks on Tamarindo Beach

Most of the power has been restored to Puerto Rico, after an island-wide outage threw the country into darkness on Wednesday.

Puerto Rico has dealt with smaller outages in the past, but this was the first time that power was knocked out on the entire island since Hurricane Maria struck seven months ago. Crews were able to restore electricity to one million residents by 7 a.m. on Thursday, and by Friday morning, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said that power had been restored to about 97% of the island. 

The outage was caused by a contractor working on the grid and accidentally downed a powerline with a bulldozer. That contractor, who also caused another outage last week, has been fired.  

Carla Campos, acting executive director of Puerto Rico Tourism Company, told Yahoo Finance that this was an isolated incident and uncommon for the island. “Before this outage, about 95% of our grid had been restored, so we expect that to be the case again when the entire outage is fixed in the next few hours.”

While some residents wait for an end to the darkness, tourism has continued uninterrupted.

“A lot of the proprietors and hotels have contingency plans, like back-up generators,” said Campos. “So many of our visitors probably weren’t affected.”

On Thursday, 130 hotels on the island were fully operational, as was the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU). Airports in Ponce, Aguadilla, Ceiba, Culebra & Vieques are also back up and running. 

Hurricane Maria recovery efforts continue on the island, especially in rural areas, but tourists have helped the travel industry to bounce back. Spring break and Easter brought record-breaking hotel occupancy and airlines are opening up new routes every day. Currently, 20 airlines fly into SJU, averaging 110 daily flights with a seat volume of 391,000. That capacity will grow by 81,000 this summer as the busy travel season gets underway. If all goes as planned, the tourism department expects air access will be on par with last year’s levels.

Cruises have also rebounded quickly. By the end of June, Puerto Rico will have received 1.04 million passengers since Hurricane Maria hit in September. Additionally, 14 vessels have homeports (the departure point) in San Juan, four more than last year.

“Tourism was the first sector to get back up and running in Puerto Rico,” said Campos. “Visiting is the best way to help the island — staying at hotels, eating at restaurants, and shopping locally.”

Brittany is reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @bjonescooper

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