Puerto Rico Tourism Co. sues World Travel and Tourism Council for $1.5M
The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. has filed a lawsuit against the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) seeking a refund of $1.5 million it paid as part of an agreement — that was broken — to co-host the event, according to the claim filed at the San Juan Superior Court.
In September 2019, local event co-host, Discover Puerto Rico, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK-based entity to host the 2020 WTTC Global Summit on the island in April 2020. The WTTC required $4 million from the host to bring the event to Puerto Rico.
Given its industry reach and the potential global exposure for Puerto Rico, the local government agreed to sign on as the event’s main sponsor, pledging $2.2 million, broken down into $1.5 million from the Tourism Co., $500,000 from the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, and another $200,000 from the Convention Center District Authority.
The remaining $1.8 million would come from Discover Puerto Rico, which would raise the amount through sponsorship agreements with the private sector, according to the lawsuit on which the Tourism Co. also listed breach of contract as a reason for suing.
According to the agreement, the Tourism Co.’s part would be split in two equal payments of $750,000, which it said it paid and the WTTC accepted.
However, in January 2020, WTTC announced it would no longer be holding the event in Puerto Rico, moving it to Cancún, Mexico instead. Coupled with that announcement was the WTTC’s alleged confirmation to the Tourism Co. that it would reimburse the $1.5 million in full, if the government accepted the cancellation of the event, according to the lawsuit.
“Although the Tourism Co. believed that the money paid had to be reimbursed unconditionally, it accepted the cancellation of the event as long as it was reimbursed immediately,” the lawsuit states.
However, several weeks passed after the WTTC vowed to reimburse the money, prompting the Tourism Co. to send several letters in March 2020 to get its money back, which were allegedly unsuccessful.
In December 2020, the WTTC sent a letter to the agency “ignoring its commitment to reimburse the sums paid in full, but offered to settle the matter under new terms, which the Tourism Co. is legally prevented to do,” according to the civil suit that does not detail what the proposed new terms were.
In its petition, the Tourism Co. asked the court to compel WTTC to comply with its obligation to reimburse the $1.5 million, plus another $60,000 in damages and interest.
“The Tourism Co. has conducted countless out-of-court attempts to collect, without the need to file a lawsuit. However, the WTTC has refused to refund the money, for which we’re asking for the imposition of litigation costs and attorney fees,” the agency said in the claim.