Skift Take

Puerto Rico is positioning itself as a global events destination, despite January’s seismic activity. With a new marketing campaign and multiple initiatives aimed at attracting planners and attendees, the island’s efforts are starting to pay off.

Discover Puerto Rico recently announced its new #GoForPuertoRico marketing campaign as a reminder that the island remains a premier destination, despite seismic activity in the southern portion of the island in January.

While the campaign’s aim is to attract tourists as a whole, Discover Puerto has begun to place a special emphasis on the meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions sector over the last 18 months — and with much success.

A surge in event leads has resulted in economic impact projections of up to $320 million over the next six years for the island. The trend began in the last fiscal year (2018–2019), which marked a 21 percent increase in total events and a 26 percent increase in total attendance, based on a 13-year average.

This coming year, 269 events are on the books to take place in Puerto Rico, which came from nearly 1,100 leads.

Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, credits this increase in interest to a shift in the way the island’s destination marketing organization executes site-visit trips with event planners.

“We make events all about the experience,” said Dean. “Our immersive site visits don’t just show the hotels and the convention center. We also show what makes Puerto Rico unique.” This includes activities such as making local cuisine like mofongo (a plantain and seafood dish) and attending a mixology class at Casa Bacardi. This strategy gives planners a first-hand account of the types of experiences they can offer attendees when choosing Puerto Rico as their event destination.

A Storyteller’s Approach to Handling Adversity

Puerto Rico has faced multiple setbacks, even in spite of massive recovery efforts following 2017’s Hurricane Maria. The beginning of 2020 has been marked by multiple earthquakes in the island’s southern coast. On top of that, last month the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) announced its decision to switch its 20th Global Summit from San Juan to Cancun, Mexico. There are plans, however, to host an additional WTTC event in Puerto Rico later this year although specific details have yet to be released.

Despite these issues, Discover Puerto Rico handles any future concerns that event planners might have about natural disasters with transparency. “We focus our efforts to ensure planners and travelers know what to expect so they can rely on us,” said Dean.

Discover Puerto Rico also executes a unique approach to combating outdated media footage of the island. Promoting user-generated content, including recent event planner testimonials, affirms the reality of Puerto Rico’s tourism industry as it stands today.

High-profile business events confirmed in 2020 include:

Successful Launch of El Distrito’s Aloft Hotel

El Distrito reached its first major milestone last week with the opening of the Aloft Hotel, the boutique brand’s first Caribbean location. Skift recently covered El Distrito’s upcoming launch, which will ultimately serve as an experiential complex next to the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan. Plans for the area include retail, dining, entertainment (including the Coca-Cola Music Hall), technology, and even an urban zipline.

Inside the San Juan Aloft, which opened last week in El Distrito. Photo: San Juan Aloft

In addition to its proximity to the convention center, the Aloft property offers more than 3,500 square feet of meeting space with the ability to hold events for up to 300 people. El Distrito, along with the neighboring convention center, is within minutes to the airport, tourist sites, and Old San Juan, making it a multisensory experience.

“Puerto Rico has venues that you won’t find elsewhere. It’s a premier business destination and ensures attendees will have memories to last a lifetime,” Dean said.

Disclosure: Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali serves on the 25-member advisory board to Destination Puerto Rico, as part of Skift Foundation‘s commitment to helping Puerto Rico in its tourism recovery.

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Tags: destinations, discover puerto rico, meetings and events

Photo credit: The Puerto Rico Convention Center is shown here. Meetings and events sector leads are on the rise with new event efforts under way. Discover Puerto Rico

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