Puerto Rico is looking to the booming cruise sector to help drive its recovery from the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria last September.

Six months after the return of its first cruise ships, the American territory is confident of welcoming more than 1.7 million cruise passengers during 2018.

Cruise lines including Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Viking Cruises were among the first to return to the port of San Juan late last year, laying the foundation for a recovery the island hopes will translate to longer-stay visitors throughout this year.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) says more than 80% of hotels, lodgings, and restaurants were fully functioning by the start of the year, while flight schedules from both the US and Europe were expected to reach pre-hurricane levels in the first half of 2018.

“Tourism is fundamental in the recovery efforts of Puerto Rico and, with the island officially ready to receive tourists, the best way that travellers can contribute to these efforts is by visiting, staying at hotels or other properties, eating at restaurants and shopping in local shops,” said PRTC interim executive director Carla Campos.

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