SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - As the brilliant yellow sun cast dancing shadows on the lush turf under his feet, Nils Stozlechner stared transfixed at the crashing turquoise surf off the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico. He lingered in the picturesque moment, pondering a journalist’s question.
What, more than anything, did he take away from his experience with Hurricane Maria?
It’s been roughly two years since the Category 5 storm overtook the treasured island – September 20, 2017 – and everything got swept up in its fury, including the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf and Beach Resort, where Stolzlechner is the General Manager.
Above: The beaches and crystal clear waters of Puerto Rico are busier than ever after Maria.
After considerable time, the former Austrian National Team Winter Olympian turned his gaze upon his questioner and answered succinctly.
“When you give people hope and maintain a positive attitude, it’s incredible how quickly they can rebound, despite tremendous difficulty.”
Testament to his words can be found in how the property not only reopened but is revitalized in virtually all areas. The amenity-rich, oceanfront resort is indicative of the Island’s resurgence.
The numbers don’t lie. Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s first-ever Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), has consistently been announcing remarkable tourism statistics throughout 2019 across a wide spectrum of categories.
For example, occupancy spending has reached the highest it has been in the past eight years, a double-digit increase compared to 2017 pre-Hurricane Maria levels. The Island’s rapid lodging spend growth was driven by a rise in bookings of vacation rental properties, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the notable jump.
Above: Puerto Rico's magnificent ocean-side golf courses have returned to their pre-Maria brilliance.
This has also been underscored by strong passenger arrivals, which are on par with pre-Maria levels.
Meetings, conference and event planners are embracing Puerto Rico again. And the Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC) announced fiscal year 2018-2019 as the most successful year in its 14-year history. The PRCC is a cornerstone of the Island’s offerings as a tourist and event destination, being an anchor of the Convention District. It will expand with the opening of El Distrito San Juan complex, scheduled for early 2020.
“When we consider the impact that each event generates in terms of number of visitors, hotel nights, use of services and products, and other added activities, the balance is a very significant impact for the local economy,” said Jorge Pérez, general manager of PRCC.
Travellers are increasingly choosing to visit Puerto Rico; for its culture, history, gastronomy, nightlife, biodiversity and, last but not the least, golf.
Above: Puerto Rico's diverse sun-drenched landscape is once again welcoming back eco tourists from around the world.
Puerto Rico golf courses and resorts are reporting substantial growth in rounds and revenue during 2019 (compared to the first nine months of 2018), a positive trend mirroring the Island’s robust tourism ascension.
The golf club at Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf & Beach Resort in Rio Grande is thriving, capturing a 128 per cent revenue increase January-May, which is during the Island’s high season. Rounds played during that period rose by 56 per cent.
Like Stolzlechner, Director of Golf Jamie West, has a profound appreciation for the transformation that has taken place here since Maria’s unwelcome visit.
“I get emotional thinking about it,” said West. “We came together, which helped us move forward. We were blessed by great people working together. It brought Puerto Rico back to life, and now we’re better than ever.”
For more information on Island golf courses, resorts and other attractions, visit DiscoverPuertoRico.com