Residents of Puerto Rico continue to be concerned with incidents of tourists growing as a result of the rise in travel during the pandemic.
Data received from the Official Airline Guide (OAG) showed that 491,337 seats were sold for flights arriving at Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU) in March 2021, with 85,734 of them flying in from Orlando International Airport (MCO). The majority of tourists came in from Orlando with others flying in from Fort Lauderdale (41,330 seats) and JFK/NYC (40,944).
Airlines like JetBlue and American Airlines had the highest flight frequency to the island, with 152 flights leaving Miami and 151 leaving Orlando during March, respectively. American Airlines had a total of 31,230 scheduled seats for their Miami-SJU flights this month, with only Delta Airlines’ flight of Atlanta to SJU trailing with 26,373 seats.
With the increase of flights comes the risk of tourists not following safety measures enacted by the Puerto Rican government. A tourist who shared their trip to the island on TikTok explained to another user how she had edited a COVID test result with her name to travel to Puerto Rico.
In response to the reprehensible behavior by tourists, the Puerto Rican Tourism Company has taken to implementing billboards around popular touristic zones in San Juan, reminding the island’s visitors of its social distancing measures and a $100 fine for refusing to follow the mask mandate.
Advertencia de multas comienzan en $100.
Instalan en La Placita de Santurce, Condado y otras zonas turísticas, “billboards” para orientar a los turistas sobre las medidas de seguridad ante el #covid19, tras incidentes con turistas. @CTPuertoRico pic.twitter.com/L11rq7xS4g
— Pedro Martínez (@pmartinezvelez) March 14, 2021
Many locals have highlighted this blatant disregard of tourists by posting videos on social media. Videos of a tourist riding an electric scooter on the Puerto Rico Highway 26 and a visibly inebriated tourist who was tased by police for refusing to wear a mask have been calling attention to the misbehaviors of tourists.
Continúan los incidentes con las scooters en San Juan.
Reportan situación de mujer conduciendo el vehículo en plena autopista en San Juan.
? Marielix Báez Salgado pic.twitter.com/E2dkvwtpjY
— Pedro Martínez (@pmartinezvelez) March 14, 2021
Tourists, if you’re going to go to Puerto Rico you must wear a mask. @WapaTV reports this 18yo man from Colorado didn’t. Police repeatedly asked him to get out of the street. He appears to taunt them. They tased & arrested him as the crowd clapped.
?: Frances Rodríguez/ Facebook pic.twitter.com/2o3rAXlNTh
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) March 29, 2021
A video of tourists throwing a drink at a resident of the building who is also a wheelchair user had a large influence on local law enforcement and the tourism organizations taking complaints from locals seriously.
THREAD. Tourists in Puerto Rico assault woman in wheelchair. The tourists, were asked wear their masks, to keep their distance, and hold the door for her so she could enter the building. The tourist refuses, says “SPEAK ENGLISH!” then throws her alcohol drink at woman’s face. pic.twitter.com/0xiXzMYITt
— paolette (@deviIette) February 12, 2021
Cristina Carrasquillo, the victim, had tried to get the group who was staying at an Airbnb in her condominium to follow social distancing measures and to wear a mask but did so in Spanish as she did not assume that they spoke English.
“I never expected that in my own country somebody would tell me ‘Speak English’ and would attack me like that because I asked them to follow the law in Puerto Rico,” Carrasquillo told Latino Rebels.
The video of the assault caused outrage across the island and sparked debates from those who thought that Carrasquillo —the Development Director of the activism group Colectivo Ile— had aggravated the incident by pushing one of the tourists with her wheelchair.
“Listen, my fingers are paralyzed. So that movement you see of me moving forward was to tell the person, ‘Hey, look out for your foot because my wheel is there’. That’s what I was telling her, and trying to move forward, because it’s difficult to move my torso forward so that the woman who was opening the door, the same woman who refused to wear a mask and stay 6 ft apart, would listen to me,” Carrasquillo said.
The viral tweet resulted in Airbnb removing the tourists from their platform. Many on the island, however, have been very critical of the site’s contribution to the increase in tourists during the pandemic. Many local hosts on the platform have shared incidents of damage to their properties.
[VÍDEOS] Los dueños de un Airbnb en Santurce acudieron a su propiedad porque los vecinos se quejaron del grupo de turistas que allí se estaba quedando. Cuando llegaron con seguridad privada a sacarlos, se encontraron con un party y personas no incluidas en la reservación. (1/1) pic.twitter.com/x2G0kbI4r7
— V. Torres Montalvo ? (@Motinsitepegas) March 19, 2021
I’ve seen lots of anecdotal reports of tourists in Puerto Rico disobeying the COVID-19 curfew. This one, in Ocean Park, San Juan, comes with a video. Original thread says it’s an AirBnB. pic.twitter.com/nzBcSmcmK0
— midnucas ?? (@midnucas) March 18, 2020
Destruyen apartamento de Airbnb en Viejo San Juan.
"Para los que no lo creen ? El que trabaja en la industria sabe que esto está fuera de lo normal…Este apartamento fue perdida total, nunca pensé que eso era posible" – Tina Rodríguez 'host' del Aibrnb. FB: FiscalizandoPR pic.twitter.com/kQTaOdokhg
— Juan Carlos Pedreira (@juancpedreira) March 16, 2021
Mis vecinos aquí en el Viejo San Juan se reúnen para discutir cómo combatir el deterioro de la vida aquí por @Airbnb, los turistas irrespetuosos y violentos y el abandono de la infraestructura de la ciudad vieja por parte de los funcionarios electos. #puertorico #sanjuan pic.twitter.com/r8yKgL4R0P
— Michael Deibert (@michaelcdeibert) March 18, 2021
“Puerto Rico is like the place to vacation for the folks who want to take a break from the pandemic,” Carrasquillo said with frustration. “You see Puerto Ricans following the law and the executive order, and they don’t remove their masks on the street. But here, the tourists came to take a break from the masks.”
Isabella Philippi Cámara is a freelance journalist who has worked for GFR Media, and is currently a senior at Ohio University studying communications. You can find her on Twitter @iphilippicamara.