SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Zika has presented a massive challenge for Puerto Rico’s Tourism, causing a considerable number of travel cancellations. It’s therefore surprising to receive the encouraging news from Puerto Rico Convention and Visitors Bureau that MICE business is actually improving.
Puerto Rico’s group business closes off what has come to be known as the initial Zika period (March to May), very much open for business, with 57 new booked pieces of business including events, conferences, annual meetings and sports activities from now through 2017.
This represents a total direct spend of potentially $20.4 million into the local economy, Milton Segarra, president & CEO of Meet Puerto Rico (MPR-Puerto Rico Convention Bureau), announced today. Meet Puerto Rico is the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) responsible for attracting meetings, conventions, trade shows, sporting events and incentive groups to Puerto Rico.
During the upcoming summer months of June, July and August, Meet Puerto Rico will host 42 groups for a total of approximately 40,000 room nights providing a $32 million impact during this time period. These groups range from conferences and events to religious and sports organizations to communications and insurance companies. In addition Meet Puerto Rico is actively generating 260 new leads up from 242 for the same time last year – a 7% increase – as well as 100 new accounts for the destination.
“The groups and conventions segment in Puerto Rico is a major driver in the tourism industry and we are proud to say that Zika has not won. Groups booked range from multinational companies, to medical, educational conferences and sporting events, among others. An estimated 25,000 new hotel-room nights in total have been booked,” Segarra said.
“This shows the confidence the meetings industry has in Puerto Rico and how our (MPR and our members) very focused educational efforts have paid off,” Segarra continued. “The trust our clients have in Puerto Rico’s ability to deliver a professionally productive and culturally rich experience, while maintaining a safe environment (following all recommended guidelines) is all coming together.
Segarra described the success due to the strong support and partnership that exists between Meet Puerto Rico and it members – the hotel industry, restaurants, transportation companies, local DMCs, venues, attractions, Audio Visual, and entertainment companies, as well as the support of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) and the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA.)
“When the Zika situation hit, we immediately put into action a strong meeting professional/attendee-centered strategy that included a fact-driven education and communication program addressing the concerns of our clients,” Segarra remarked. “We listened to them and provided the most accurate and up-to-date information on Puerto Rico concerning Zika and it paid off. As a result, our clients trusted us, our team in the field and our members. Through statements and Question and Answer (Q+A) documents backed up by facts and figures by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and the Puerto Rico Health Department, video and print testimonials from clients hosting events in Puerto Rico in real time, and easy to read infographics with myth buster facts – we kept the lines of communication open, transparent and honest. And all of that was shared with our members, so they could answer their clients’ questions too. This was a team effort and we could not have achieved these positive results without them. And we continue developing new business opportunities to Puerto Rico and for our members.”
Puerto Rico continues to position itself as an ideal destination for meetings and conventions, offering a state-of-the-art convention center, a wide variety of hotels, strong infrastructure and unique attractions with the added advantage of being on a tropical island in the Caribbean. One in four rooms occupied in hotels that can accommodate large-scale meetings belongs to the groups and conventions segment.