GIVEN CURRENT WORLD EVENTS, Puerto Rico is a very attractive destination and has a unique opportunity to attract new corporate meeting and incentive business, say meeting planners who attended the Meet the Greens Puerto Rico Invitational Golf Classic and Marketplace, held May 18 to 21. The event, co-sponsored by CMI's parent company, Primedia Business, The Meetings Group, included a spirited two-day golf, a charming marketplace tour of Old San Juan, and the opportunity to enjoy two of the island's top resorts, the Westin Rio Mar and the Wyndham El Conquistador.
Why Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico's most obvious advantages as a meeting destination flow from its status as a U.S. commonwealth. This means planners don't have to deal with tax issues, and attendees don't need passports. The currency is the same as on the mainland, and many Puerto Ricans are fluent in both Spanish and English.
Puerto Rico also is perceived as a safe offshore destination — which is a major consideration for companies and attendees who have become skittish in an uncertain world.
Phelps Hope, president of Aspen Productions, Atlanta, believes Puerto Rico's proximity to the U.S. mainland is a big competitive advantage. For Hope and others flying from Atlanta, Puerto Rico is a three-hour, nonstop flight. It's about four hours from many other major U.S. airports in the busy Northeast corridor.
“Puerto Rico is more attractive for my offshore meetings and incentives than Europe right now,” Hope said.
His view was shared by most of the Meet the Greens planners, including Karyn Rizzo, senior meeting consultant with Sun Life Financial, Wellesley, Mass., who is bringing an incentive group to the Westin Rio Mar in May 2004: “I think the Caribbean right now is not as big a concern as Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. I find the Caribbean to be less worrisome for attendees.”
Come for the Golf
Puerto Rico features several high-caliber golf courses among its 18 existing courses, but with seven new courses coming on line in the next year, the island is positioning itself to be the top destination for golf in the Caribbean. And in October 2004, the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort will host the 2004 World Amateur Team Championships.
Golf architect Ron Garl is designing 18 holes at InterContinental Cayo Largo Resort in Fajardo, on the eastern end of the island. The resort is scheduled to open this fall.
Former PGA Tour player Tom Kite and Bruce Besse of Willowbend Design are creating 36 holes at the new Sol Meliá Paradisus Coco Beach Resort & Casino in Rio Grande. An October opening is planned.
The Caguas Hampton Inn Golf Club in Caguas and El Legado Golf Resort in Guayama are each building 18-hole courses.
The Ponce Hilton Hotel & Casino is creating a 27-hole complex; 18 holes are already open.
When combined with courses at the Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Golf Club, the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort, and the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort, Puerto Rico has the critical mass — and the weather — needed to make it a top golf destination.
Long-Awaited Convention Center
For some organizations, the missing link for Puerto Rico meetings has been a convention center. That will change in 2005, when phase one of the $200 million, state-of-the-art Puerto Rico Convention Center opens for business, with more than 600,000 square feet of space. Phases two and three of the center's expansion include two additional 150,000-square-foot exhibit areas.
“This new center will definitely provide new options,” said Rick Binford, national director of corporate sales for Conferon Inc., Novi, Mich.
Meet the Greens participants also had a chance to tour charming Old San Juan, with its colorful architecture and fascinating history. The city is teeming with tourists who want to have fun in its shops, hotels, and restaurants.
Puerto Rico Convention Bureau
Primedia Business, The Meetings Group
Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Golf Club
Wyndham El Conquistador Resort
Wyndham Old San Juan Hotel & Casino
Cendant Car Rental Group Avis/Budget, Latin America and Caribbean
Enesco History Craft Gifts
St. Andrews Products
Travel Services Inc.
Hyatts of Puerto Rico
Sol Meliá Paradisus Coco Beach Resort & Casino
InterContinental San Juan