Tourism/Transportation

Summer group business pumping $14.8M into economy

Milton Segarra, president  of Meet Puerto Rico Milton Segarra, president of Meet Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s group business activity is kicking off strongly this summer, with 70 events — including conferences, annual meetings and sports activities — already lined up for the season. This translates into an estimated 26,395 room nights and a total direct spending of $14.8 million into the local economy, Milton Segarra, president of Meet Puerto Rico said Thursday.

Meet Puerto Rico, formerly known as the Puerto Rico Convention Bureay, is a private organization responsible for attracting meetings, conventions, trade shows and incentive groups to Puerto Rico. Groups range from multinational companies, to medical, educational conferences and sporting events, among others.

“The groups and conventions segment in Puerto Rico is a major driver in the tourism industry. One in four rooms occupied in hotels that can accommodate large-scale meetings belongs to the groups and conventions segment,” said Segarra.

Segarra said last May, there were 29 groups for a total of 12,684 room nights with an impact of $7.1 million in direct spending for the benefit of the tourism industry. As an example, he mentioned the “World Forum on Early Care and Education 2014” event, attended by 800 educational professionals from 80 countries.

This month, the island will host 25 groups for an estimated total of 9,897 room nights and a direct expenditure of $5.5 million. There are two citywide groups using more than one hotel to accommodate participants. One is the annual meeting of the “Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution,” which will generate 1,800 room nights, and the 76th Annual Meeting of the “College on Problems of Drug Dependence” that will provide 4,265 room nights.

Sixteen groups are scheduled for July with a total of 3,814 hotel nights and a contribution of $2.1 million. Groups include the “American Academy of Pediatrics District and Joint Meeting 2014”, the “U.S. & Canadian Academy of Pathology Diagnostic Update” and the “International Volleyball Federation Grand Prix.”

The World Tourism Organization recently released its latest Global Report on the Meetings Industry that confirms that among the more than 1 billion international tourists on record for 2013, between 20 percent and 22 percent were group travelers, standing firmly as one of the main drivers of tourism development and an important generator of income, employment and investment sector, Segarra said.

Meet Puerto Rico’s marketing efforts is estimated at more than 180,000 room nights per year, with an impact of $100 million in the local economy. This complements the initiatives carried out by the Tourism Company to attract tourists to the island, the executive noted.

Segarra, who joined the organization a year ago, has reshaped the business model of the organization to adjust to changes and trends within the industry. For example, he mentioned that event planners are looking to offer different and memorable experiences for participants.

“The interesting thing about what is happening in these events is that it is not only the meeting in a conference room. Now planners are seeking experiences that make the event memorable. These groups are making trips to Old San Juan, Bacardi, El Yunque, catamaran trips, zip lining and kayaks,” he concluded.

This new trend in the industry is in line with the new campaign launched by Meet Puerto Rico earlier this year.

“Our message is that we have everything to make a successful meeting or convention, but with the advantage that we are on a tropical island in the Caribbean,” he said.

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