Puerto Rico Eyes Meetings

puerto ricoPuerto Rico is gearing up for its reopening on July 15 and meeting professionals are taking note.

“We are no strangers to challenges… the resiliency of our people is unparalleled. And, now as we prepare to emerge from the pandemic, we are prepared to right yet another amazing comeback story,” says Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.

He adds that, “The early estimate suggests that the COVID pandemic will actually have three times the impact that hurricanes Irma and Maria had on our industry. But, while challenges lie ahead, we are eager to show the world that nothing can keep Puerto Rico from reaching its potential.”

Puerto Rico is currently in Phase 3 of reopening; on July 1 it will move to Phase 4, and finally on July 15, the island officially reopens for international travelers. There are currently a variety of guidelines to help protect the public health among those are social distancing to limiting the group sizes to an island wide curfew.

“Puerto Rico was also the first destination to implement thermo dynamic screening within the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan,”  says Dean. “Good news is, it’s all working.A year or two from now, when we shut down or when we reopened will matter far less as to how we managed this.”

The Four Phase plan is set to help business owners rebuild their businesses and prepare. Upon arrival, guests can expect stringent procedures in place throughout the island such as not reusing menus and physical distancing being implemented.

“On July 15, we will officially be open for inbound tourism,” says Dean. “As we approach that reopening date, some of these precautionary measures are being gradually lifted.”

Meeting Planners Look for New Dates

When the lockdown began, about 85 percent of meeting planners were still working, according to data from Discover Puerto Rico. “They were trying to figure out what meetings were going to look like, what virtual aspects they needed to incorporate. And now, meeting planners are starting to look for potential new dates for the meetings they need to continue,” said Ed Carey, chief sales officer for Discover Puerto Rico. “Since the lockdown began, we’ve produced roughly 118 leads and over 80,000 room nights, about $71 million in economic potential.  And, 13 of those have turned definite—and these are new bookings. So that’s nearly 12,000 new group room nights—a smaller portion are as soon as October and November of this year and then a portion go in to 2021 and 2022.”

Carey notes that though the way meetings are held might have changed right now; they will come back. “I think we’ve all been Zoomed out over the last month. I think meetings have changed. There will be a hybrid component. But there’s never going to be a true replacement for face-to-face,” he says. Adding that, “While meetings might get smaller in the near term, that MICE segment will recover, and those numbers are suggesting the same.”

This research, says Carey, tells them that, “Flexibility and booking terms is something that’s going to help meeting planners grapple with the uncertainty surrounding, ‘Will my meeting be successful?’ We are coming out as a destination and saying, ‘We know you need flexibility. We are going to be easy to do business with.’”

Adding that Discover Puerto Rico is going to have flexible terms for groups. And, they will be “pointing out to extraordinary deals, not only on their website, but will be pushing out through meetings channels that the individual brands are putting out.”

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