The Puerto Rico Open announced that its upcoming 12th edition will be held next week, with an estimated economic impact of $3 million to the local tourism and hospitality sector.
The Puerto Rico Open is an official tournament in the Professional Golfers’ Association’s (PGA) Tour and it gathers top athletes for a week of professional camaraderie. This year, the competition will be held from Feb. 20 to 23 at the Hyatt Regency Golf and Country Club in Rio Grande, formerly known as Coco Beach.
The tournament has been pushed ahead by about a month in order to accommodate players from other countries. Although the Puerto Rico Open organizers received complaints over changing the date, this could actually prove to be more beneficial because it is not close to Easter week, when locals tend to travel. In addition, February weather is less hot and drier, the latter of which provides for a more challenging golf course.
David Chafey, chairman of the Puerto Rico Open’s Board of Directors, affirmed to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that the event will serve as a motor to rev up the tourism economy and support local businesses in the short- and long-term.
According to Chafey, there have been roughly 3,500 to 4,000 nightly room reservations made for the week of the event. Although the cumulative number of nights reserved falls between that estimate, the number of visitors per room, per night could be even higher.
“There are more than 3,000 nights booked. There are hundreds of thousands of people who come to Puerto Rico to eat, drink and party that weekend,” Chafey stated.
Between airline tickets, hotel fees and consumption on the island, the Puerto Rico Open is estimated to generate $3 million in the tourism economy. The event itself will feature multiple food trucks and catering services from local entrepreneurs, as well as local and Puerto Rico-based brands like Bacardí, which will have its own lounging area near the 18th hole.
Chafey stressed that this impact would be an immediate effect. However, given the PGA Tour’s popularity worldwide and the Golf Channel’s ample viewership, the chairman observed that there is the possibility of a far greater return on investment in the long run.
Orchestrating and operating the Puerto Rico Open costs roughly $7 million, with the bulk of the contributions coming from the Puerto Rico Golf Association ($3.5 million), and a minor chunk provided by the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. ($1.5 million to $2 million), among others.
Chafey noted that the government’s contribution would be easily recovered through the Sales and Use Tax (IVU by its Spanish acronym) collected during the event, as well as the 30 percent tax withheld from the grand prize.
Special packages are being offered at 17 hotels in Puerto Rico
Meanwhile, the Golf Channel, Chafey informed, has more than 300 million subscribers in 200 countries and jurisdictions or commonwealths. Moreover, the channel plays the tournament live for five hours, with 4.3 million viewers for an average of 42 minutes.
Apart from extensive coverage of the tournament itself, the Golf Channel also features interviews with locals, showcases tourism destinations across the island, promotes and assortment of visitor experiences and more.
“They aren’t in the golf course 100 percent of the time; they also promote Puerto Rico and they do so in the best way possible,” Chafey asserted.
He expects the positive coverage of the island to prompt viewers into eventually visiting the island or establishing a business.
“That is an economic impact in a very narrow timeframe. That is the immediate impact. My greatest hope, and the reason for my devotion, is not about this year’s impact, but the impact on the entire tourism [sector]—for several companies that are planning on building hotels in Puerto Rico to think, ‘hey, we can build a hotel here,’” he stated.
THE WEEKLY JOURNAL asked if the hotel or flight reservations have been impacted due to mainland and international coverage about the seismic activities that devastated the southern region of the island and affected electric energy services throughout January. Chafey affirmed that reservations “have remained stable” despite concerns over further natural disasters.
Tourism’s GDP Contribution “Absurdly Low”
Chafey reiterated that he conceived the Puerto Rico Open with PRGA President Sidney Wolf during the Aníbal Acevedo Vilá administration in the late 2000s with the goal to create a world-class tournament that would boost Puerto Rico’s tourism economy.
“The tournament has two goals: one is to make Puerto Rico renowned worldwide… and the economy cannot rely on many of the other things that are here in Puerto Rico. There are pharmaceuticals with tax incentives, but that isn’t a sustainable economic model. So, Puerto Rico needs to identify what will be its economic model,” he said.
Although he clarified that the manufacturing sector won’t necessarily collapse with the eventual fallout of Act 154, he stressed that tourism should have a greater impact on the overall economy.
Tourism comprises roughly 7 percent of the government’s gross domestic product (GDP), which Chafey deemed “absurdly low” compared to other Caribbean islands with more limited offers in terms of activities or geography.
“If I were in charge of tourism, my goal would be to make it 10 percent of the economy in five years, and 20 percent in another five years,” he said.