Puerto Rico is becoming front page news as the U.S. House of Representatives hammers out a bill that they hope will address a serious economic crisis on the island, satisfy bondholders holding Puerto Rican debt, and protect U.S. taxpayers from another bailout.
However this turns out, one thing remains true: the beautiful island of Puerto Rico desperately needs to generate more economic activity. When you are home to some of the most enviable tropical beaches and resorts in the world, promoting your tourism industry naturally tops your list.
That pina colada you enjoy on the beach will taste a lot sweeter knowing that you are helping Puerto Rican families instead of enabling dictators and their corrupt, repressive, anti-liberty regime.
That’s why President Obama’s recent and controversial trip to Cuba is all the more curious. Puerto Rico was already facing increasing competition from the Dominican Republican and Cuba, but Obama’s high profile visit is, unsurprisingly, causing a spike in tourism to Cuba. So have visits from his glitzy friends Beyonce and JayZ. At precisely the time when Puerto Rico needs more tourist dollars, Cuba, thanks to Obama, is emerging as a serious competitor for the U.S. Caribbean tourist dollar. It’s unfortunate, on many levels.
To begin with, Puerto Rico has the infrastructure to offer American tourists a superior experience. Their resorts are first rate and meet the standards Americans expect on an exotic vacation. A friend of mine who recently returned from Cuba described dilapidated hotels deserving of one, maybe two stars, charging five star rates. Her “five star hotel” with peeling paint gave her several days of cold showers.
More depressing, though, is knowing that your U.S. dollars are not going into the pockets of the hardworking Cuban maid, bellman or waiter who attends you. Hotels and resorts are required to pay their workers’ wages directly to the Cuban government and the government pays the worker as low as 5 percent of what they earned. The rest they use to enrich themselves and finance an undemocratic and repressive regime that has destroyed and depressed its people and their economy. Good times.
It’s worth noting that in his entire presidency, President Obama has spent a total of four hours on the island of Puerto Rico — to campaign for his reelection. In contrast, he spent two high profile days in Cuba, and didn’t bother to stop by Puerto Rico on his way home to reassure the island during these tough times or to promote a tourist industry affected by fears of Zika and a increasing competition.
So what can you do?
Go to beautiful Puerto Rico! Book a trip, enjoy the warm winds, the sandy beaches, the music, the food, and the good feeling that comes from knowing you are helping fellow Americans living in a U.S. territory get through a tough economic period. That piña colada you enjoy on the beach will taste a lot sweeter knowing that you are helping Puerto Rican families instead of enabling dictators and their corrupt, repressive, anti-liberty regime.