US disaster ‘may affect travel to Puerto Rico’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Before going bankrupt, Hercules Travel operated five charter flights weekly from the US to Puerto Rico

American travellers have begun returning to destinations such as Panama and Costa Rica as holiday firms prepare to resume flights from the US to Puerto Rico.

Hercules Travel went bankrupt in September.

The US Center for Travel Analysis (COTA) said it had not seen an increase in bookings to Puerto Rico, but added that the likelihood of the island’s finances going into liquidation was low.

In the absence of regular flights, tourist numbers to Puerto Rico plunged shortly after the disaster.

“It’s uncertain whether and how the Trump administration will continue in Puerto Rico. The stability of the island is a key concern for tourists in the US,” said COTA president Dr Samuel Katz.

He added that for now, the “long-term health of tourism in Puerto Rico” could be considered “less than ideal”.

This year, more than 140,000 Puerto Ricans had booked charter flights to the US, compared with 80,000 last year.

Hercules, headquartered in Lake Bluff, Illinois, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, blaming hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

After it was granted bankruptcy protection, the company said it would continue operations by filing for government loans.

The company also filed for bankruptcy in 2015.

The first of seven US charter flights – from Miami, New York and Fort Lauderdale – is scheduled to leave on Friday.

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