At the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, Puerto RicoChristian Correa came in to work as a doorman on the night shift and prepared for the worst.

Correa, who is also a hotelier at the hotel, has seen a surge in tourists to the US over the past three months and the hotel has been busy. Although it was enjoying the high season before the pandemic, many tourists who came to Puerto Rico recently have enraged local residents and immigrant workers when the island eased its Covid-19 restrictions.

“Tourists believe they can do what they want,” says Correa, 24, who is also a student at the University of Puerto Rico. “We saw fights, indoor parties and aggressive behavior.”

Cheap flights to Puerto Rico have led many travelers to choose the island as a vacation spot during the pandemic. A one-way flight from Florida to Puerto Rico booked two days in advance can cost as little as $ 62.

Hotel occupancy reached 60% over the holiday weekend on Presidents’ Day in February, according to Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s marketing organization. It was the highest number since Christmas, and the hotels expect the same occupancy rate for the upcoming spring break.

“We are certainly seeing the effects of increased traveler confidence coincide with vaccine distribution in the United States,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.

Tourists take photos in front of the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty Images

For José Silva, owner of the El Chicharrón restaurant, tourists who have arrived in the last few weeks have him because of the large crowds without face masks make up on the weekends. His restaurant is located in La Placita de Santurce, a popular tourist area. According to Silva, the police block the streets in the area on weekends, making it difficult for Ubers or taxis to pick up tourists after bars and restaurants have closed.

“We asked the police to keep everyone at a distance and to look for an alternative for this area,” says Silva.

In Old San Juan, another popular tourist area, Cristina Colón asked if her job as a waitress at Pirilo Pizza is worth the money as she sees an increase in customers who do not want to adhere to Covid-19 precautions .

“I not only take care of my physical health, but also my mental health,” says Colón. “I’m nervous about myself and about the friends and family I’ve surrounded myself with because I have no idea where this person comes from who doesn’t want to wear a mask.”

Puerto Rico was locked down in March last year. Although restrictions were eased slightly over the summer and former governor Wanda Vázquez fully reopened the beaches in September, they were closed again from November to January.

These restrictions have hit the hotel industry hard. “Wanda Vanquez’s executive orders put the hospitality industry at risk,” said Joaquín Bolívar, president of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association.

Several hotels fluctuated in the single-digit percentage range. “Some hotels questioned their survival,” says Bolivar.

Now Puerto Rico is closed from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and interior facilities can be 50% busy as newly elected Governor Pedro Pierluis has been increasingly easing restrictions since January. The beaches are also open for recreational use.

The combination of US residents looking to escape the cold weather, cheap airline tickets, and easing restrictions on the island has brought tourists en masse.

People enjoy Pine Grove Beach in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. Photo: Jorge Muniz / EPA

Bolivar admits that hotels have had issues with some guests, but said many incidents, such as large gatherings and excessive noise, mainly occur in Airbnbs.

“We see a lot of tourists on the streets who don’t want to cooperate with the executive,” says Bolivar. “The association has made the claim to the government, the city government and the police.”

Videos shared on social media show aggressive tourists starting fighting, disregarding local workers and residents, and disregarding Covid-19 precautions, including wanting not to wear face masks and holding large gatherings while the influx of travel to the island continues .

In February, A video showed tourists attacking a woman in a wheelchair after being told to wear masks. The women who lived in an Airbnb in San Juan threw their drinks in the resident’s face and asked her to speak English. Airbnb removed the guest from the platform due to the incident.

Another incident is a suspected sexual assault by a US tourist on a 23-year-old resident of Rincon in the western region of Puerto Rico. Last month the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Department in Puerto Rico brought charges against the North Carolina resident, Devin Sanders. The Guardian tried soliciting Sanders’ attorney for comment, but the number for his office was disconnected.

With the spring break approaching and new varieties becoming more common, Discover Puerto Rico is encouraging travelers to take part in outdoor activities like visiting the El Yunque National Rainforest or the beaches. Bolivar expects hotel rooms to be sold out.

Correa of ​​Condado Vanderbilt says he has not seen any guests at the hotel since the weekend on Presidents’ Day and believes it will stay that way through the spring break. He assumes that he will continue to encounter misbehaving guests and will continue to alert guests to walking through the halls without a mask and reminding them that there is a curfew.

“They never believe me when I tell them there is a curfew,” Correa says. “Minutes after you went out late at night to have a party, you come back and ask, ‘Is the curfew really real?'”