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Undated photos provided by Discover Puerto Rico as part of the campaign launched to advertise the island's tourist attractions, showing two messages written in a street intersection in Punta Santiago, one in the aftermath Hurricane Maria (L) and the…

Puerto Rico rolls out welcome mat for tourists

Nearly a year after Hurricane Maria devastate Puerto Rico, there's a new initiative to bring tourism back to the island.

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Puerto Rico announced Wednesday that it is ready to receive tourists to boost the island's economic recovery as it prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria and the devastation it caused.

Jean Paul Polo, director of multimedia production at Discover Puerto Rico, which is part of the Puerto Rico Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), told EFE that the island has launched a campaign to advertise its tourist attractions to an international audience.

The campaign recalls a message written in the middle of a street intersection by residents of Punta Santiago, on Puerto Rico's eastern coast, asking for help after the hurricane hit.

The message, which read "SOS, we need water/food," was seen from the air by a rescue team, and supplies were soon taken to the town.

In the campaign, the message asking for help written in the street intersection is replaced by a new one: "Welcome, #Cover the progress," as a plea to local and international media outlets to cover Puerto Rico's recovery.

The touching story of the island's devastation and slow recovery is told in Discover Puerto Rico's video "A Puerto Rican Community Comes Back One Year After Hurricane Maria."

The video includes interviews with residents of Punta Santiago who recall how the message they wrote saved their lives and how the town came back to life, while noting that they are now eager to receive new tourists.

The campaign was launched after it was revealed that, six months after Hurricane Maria struck, 50 percent of surveyed tourists said that negative news coverage about the devastation caused by the hurricane had negatively affected their perception of Puerto Rico as a tourist destination.

"Tourism is crucial for Puerto Rico and that is why we launched the campaign," Polo said, adding that he conceived the campaign after visiting Punta Santiago, meeting with the town's residents and hearing their accounts of the hurricane's aftermath.

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