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Meet Puerto Rico: Group business up in P.R. despite Zika

Meet Puerto Rico CEO Milton Segarra.

Meet Puerto Rico President Milton Segarra.

Puerto Rico’s group business closed 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, Meet Puerto Rico officials said Thursday.

This represents a total direct spend of potentially $20.4 million into the local economy, Milton Segarra, president of Meet Puerto Rico, the Destination Marketing Organization 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 benefit 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 percent 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’re 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 very focused educational efforts have paid off,” Segarra said. “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 attributed the success to the strong support and partnership that exists between Meet Puerto Rico and it members — including the hotel industry, restaurants, transportation companies, venues, attractions, and entertainment companies, as well as the support of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association.

“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 said. “We listened to them and provided the most accurate and up-to-date information on Puerto Rico concerning Zika and it paid off.”

The industry players kept the communication lines open through a series of efforts including Q&A documents backed by facts and figures by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and the Puerto Rico Health Department, video and print testimonials from clients hosting events in Puerto Rico in real time, he said.

“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,” Segarra said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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