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Airbnb wants you to visit Puerto Rico

The home rental company partners with the island, saying it wants to help post-hurricane reconstruction efforts.

Tourists at an outdoor cafe in Puerto Rico.

Tourists can now use Airbnb to book experiences in Puerto Rico where they can see the sights and also learn about the local culture. 

Airbnb

Airbnb has a message: Puerto Rico is open for business.

The home-rental company said Wednesday that it's expanding its partnership efforts with the island to help it promote tourism. Airbnb said the idea is to assist the US territory in continuing reconstruction after last September's devastation from Hurricane Maria.

Along with donating to local recovery organizations all fees from its bookings on the island over the next three months, Airbnb is launching 50 new experiences throughout Puerto Rico. With experiences, visitors can book local tours, like sailing in San Juan Bay at sunset and hiking in a local nature preserve.

"It's important to encourage people to continue to visit Puerto Rico," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said during a press event at the company's San Francisco headquarters. "This is a superpower that Airbnb has."

Hurricane Maria is considered the worst natural disaster to hit Puerto Rico. Its winds of up to 175 mph caused floods and devastation that the island is still reeling from. In March, six months after the hurricane, 11 percent of Puerto Rico still didn't have electricity, according to NPR.

"It's no secret that we've been hit hard by the hurricane," Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, said at Airbnb's press event. "This year was a tough year for us."

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, Airbnb activated its disaster response tool. The way the tool works is that the company contacts people in a disaster area asking if they have a room or couch they'd like to offer for free. Respondents can list their space on the company's disaster response portal, which those in need can use to find a place to stay.

Though Airbnb typically aims to make a profit off its home rentals, the company is increasingly offering free services to people in need. It created a disaster response tool in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which left more than 100,000 people homeless in the New York City area in 2012. More recently, Airbnb offered places to stay to immigrants who were stranded by President Donald Trump's travel ban and people affected by hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

So far, Airbnb has offered its response tool in connection with 100 disasters around the world, Chesky said.

Along with donating booking fees, and the 50 new experiences in Puerto Rico, Airbnb also announced Wednesday the launch of a marketing partnership with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. This joint initiative aims to promote sustainable tourism on the island and encourage visitors to travel to Puerto Rico.

"It's critical that we get tourism back up to normal," Rossello said. "Now, because of the storm, people are aware that there is this small island that has something to offer."

First published May 9 at 12:52 p.m. PT. 
Update at 2:13 p.m. PT: Clarifies the partnership Airbnb launched Wednesday with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company is a marketing partnership. 
Correction, May 10 at 11:45 a.m. PT: This story initially described Puerto Rico incorrectly. Puerto Rico is a US territory.

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