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Airbnb to help promote Puerto Rico tourism

Airbnb to help promote Puerto Rico tourism
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Airbnb is launching a new effort to help bring tourism back to Puerto Rico after last year's devastating hurricanes.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced the initiative at an event on Wednesday.

First, Airbnb is launching 50 new "experiences”, activities hosted by locals in Puerto Rico that customers can book to participate in through the app.

Airbnb will also donate all of its booking fees for Puerto Rico over the next three months to relief organizations including All Hands and Hearts, a nonprofit helping communities recover from natural disasters. The travel and room-booking app is also partnering with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company to promote tourism and let the public know the island is open for business.

“Boricuas love to show off the island,” Milaida Hernandez, an Airbnb host, said at an event announcing the new effort. Hernandez had hosted a guest who was unable to leave the island during one of the hurricanes.

Last year, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. About 23,000 people on the island still do not have access to electricity due to the failure of the power grid.

Those at the event discussed how the island is still struggling to recover.

“I never imagined that I would live to see the level of devastation that Maria left in Puerto Rico,” said Maria Cuba, the experiences global diversity head for Airbnb. “Those 18 hours changed the course of our history forever.”

Chesky said Airbnb has used its platform before in relief efforts, such as providing housing for those in need during 100 disasters around the world.

Tom Henry, the COO of All Hands and Hearts, said the organization will use the funds Airbnb donates to run its two programs in Puerto Rico through December 2019.

Chesky and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló touted the importance of tourism to the island's economy.

Rosselló said he expects to see seven percent growth in Puerto Rico’s economy next year and spoke about plans for an "energy 2.0 system" that would see renewables provide 40 to 45 percent of the territory's energy.

While the hurricanes battered the island, they also brought attention.

“Because of the storm, people are aware that there is this small island that has a lot to offer,” Rosselló said.