Would Tourism Change Under Statehood?

2013 market reports showed tourism providing only 6% of Puerto Rico’s economic base, one of the lowest proportions in the region.

The current local government of Puerto Rico is hoping to increase tourism, including special kinds of travel such as medical tourism and eco-tourism. They had intended to leverage a variety of public projects to increase visits by travelers from the mainland U.S. and from other places, adding jobs and reducing the island’s debt. This has not happened yet, but it is still part of the government’s plan.

Would statehood threaten that important part of Puerto Rico’s economy?

First, how much is tourism doing for the economy? A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York describes the economy as “stagnant” and points to the laborforce participation rate, which is one of the lowest in the world. The top employer in Puerto Rico is the government, and the second largest employer is Walmart. Not only is the economy as a whole stagnant, but, according to Caribbean Business, tourism in particular has remained frustratingly stagnant while other Caribbean destinations grow.

A report from the World Travel and Tourism Council is more specific. Tourism accounts for just 1.8% of Puerto Rico’s jobs and directly contributes only 2.3% of the total Gross Domestic Product.

Tourism provides 10% of Florida’s economic activity and nearly 25% of Hawaii’s, according to the aforementioned market reports, so being a state evidently is not bad for tourism.

U.S. citizens from the mainland don’t have to carry a passport or visa to go to Puerto Rico, but traveling from one state to another is equally simple. While many on the mainland are unaware that Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar for currency, all would assume that another state would do so.

When Hawaii became a state, the amount of press coverage it received was staggering, and it made an equally staggering difference to the role of tourism in Hawaii. Puerto Rico could expect the same boost from statehood. In addition, the perception of increased safety and stability that would go along with statehood would encourage tourism from the mainland. “Everybody wants to visit and meet the new baby in the family,” said Kenneth McClintock, former secretary for Puerto Rico, on how statehood could affect tourism to Puerto Rico.

Both history and logic suggest that statehood would in fact be good for tourism in Puerto Rico.

 

This post was originally written in English and may be being auto-translated by Google.

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