President Trump has declared emergency status for Puerto Rico in response to Tropical Storm Laura. The U.S. territory has coped with hurricanes, earthquakes, a pandemic, and ongoing economic crisis over a period of years.
Puerto Rico had opened for tourists, but then saw a spike in local transmission of the COVID-19 virus and put restrictions back in place. Tourists are not officially being encouraged, though flights are available. Google offers more than seven million results for “Puerto Rico can’t seem to catch a break.”
But there is a social media campaign, started in 2015, that continues to fight against the perception that Puerto Rico is always in a crisis condition.
#CrisisIsland vs. the Real Puerto Rico
Ten top Instagram users from Puerto Rico were invited by a social media consultant to share their view of “the real Puerto Rico” on the picture-based social media platform in an effort to turn around the current mainland view of Puerto Rico and inspire tourism.
The Instagram group:
They’re united by the hashtag #CrisisIsland, which they chose, says Carmen Portela, of media consulting firm Synapse Social, with a view to grabbing the attention of people focusing on Puerto Rico’s economic crisis, and reminding them of the beauty of the Island.
Once the campaign got underway, many more Instagrammers joined in, using the hashtag to share their photos within the campaign. They posted more than 6,300 beautiful images in just over one month, and now there are 79,511 posts.
Portela used to be the Public Relations Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, but the #CrisisIsland campaign is not funded by either government or tourism industry dollars. All the Instagrammers are volunteers.
While their manifesto incorrectly identifies Puerto Rico as a country, the group has a clear goal: to “flood social networks with images and videos to show the world the natural beauty, gastronomy, hospitality and traditions of the island beyond the economic and social problems that have dominated the conversation recently.”
Portela’s press release makes the connection with tourism, and an Upworthy interview quotes one of the organizers as saying that they hoped to counteract the “bad reputation” of the territory, which might be causing tourists to hesitate to visit.
Puerto Rico was successfully boosting tourism before the pandemic, and has begun to work toward post-pandemic improvements in the industry. A new “gold standard” certification for hotels and other hospitality venues is intended to portray Puerto Rico as the cleanest and safest destination post-pandemic.