Today marks the beginning of the 13th edition of the Puerto Rico Open, the island’s official PGA Tour FedExCup Tournament, which aims to provide economic activity to the eastern region while encouraging the reactivation of sports activities during the pandemic.
David Chafey, chairman of Puerto Rico Open, told THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this golf competition “is still an important component to the economy of the region.” Data initially provided to your correspondent stated that the event was projected to contribute $3 million to the local economy through taxes collected from room nights, restaurant outings and other tourism contributions.
However, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., Carlos Mercado Santiago, later explained that the premier golfing tournament will generate more than $5.7 million.
132 professional golf players to face off in qualifiers
Furthermore, roughly 2,500 hotel room nights are expected throughout the Puerto Rico Open, and the production of the event is estimated to contribute to more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs. Mercado Santiago explained that part of the economic impact of the event is generated from room/night reservations in hotels in the eastern area (over $1.1 million) and from occupancy taxes ($121,275).
"I see this event as a beginning and a rebirth of Puerto Rico. It goes back to the Great Regatta of 1992, where at one point the country came together for one purpose, and made the event a historic one. We are ready to take this event to the next level and take on the challenge. It's a moment of celebration," said Manuel Cidre, designated secretary of Economic Development and Commerce.
Kelly Jensen, of the PGA Tour Tournaments Business Affairs division, reported that there will be 132 athletes and their respective caddies. Between them and attendees, Jensen estimated that “there’s probably going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 people that would probably come in, give or take.”
The qualifiers start today and extend until Feb. 25 and 26. As informed, 132 professional golf players will participate in this round. Those who pass the qualifiers will face off on Feb. 27 and 28 at the finals. As with other years, the tournament will be held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico, in Río Grande.
Showcasing Puerto Rico to the World
In addition to attracting hundreds of athletes and attendees, the Puerto Rico Open offers a unique opportunity to bolster the island’s tourism, thanks to the 25-hour coverage on the Golf Channel. Like previous tournaments, the programming will feature videos that highlight Puerto Rico’s natural assets and tourism diversity.
“We work really closely with the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. and the DMO (Discover Puerto Rico) as well, and we’ve been working probably for a good solid couple of months here, trying to get ready for the telecast. That’s a big marketing piece to showcase what the island is all about. There definitely will be some of those things moving forward in the telecast, very similar to what we’ve done in the past, so I think viewers can expect very similar things,” Jensen stated.
Starting next week at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum
The Golf Channel is present in 220 countries and, per the fact sheet on this year’s event, is estimated to have around 4.3 million viewers. Moreover, since the PGA Tour resumed its tournaments with the Charles Schwab Challenge in June 2020, the company reported a 20 percent increase year-on-year on its broadcast ratings, Jensen affirmed.
“And then this season so far, our ratings have been up more than 100 percent than last year, and that was a week or so ago,” he added. As such, millions of subscribers will be exposed to Puerto Rico’s tourism offer through the telecast.
Strict Health Protocols
Both Jensen and Chafey underscored that all players, caddies and attendees will be subject to COVID-19 mitigation protocols. Per the local government’s travel requirements, travelers must take a coronavirus screening exam up to 72 hours before flying to the island. Players and guests will also be required to undergo testing in special centers established at the hotel for this tournament.
As part of an agreement with the local Health Department
“We have created a bubble that includes caddies, players, essential personnel people who can’t socially distance like the CDC guidelines dictate, and those people have to do a special set of testing in order to be inside the bubble. They’re governed by a wristband and all the people that have the wristband are able to get in these areas. Everybody else who is going to be out on the course will be able to social distance,” Jensen explained. He added that the PGA Tour has conducted roughly 32,000 COVID-19 tests since last year.
For his part, Chafey said that “it is probably the model to be used by many sports in being able to continue their activities but at the same time keeping all the players and the fans, and everybody that is working with the tournament safe, and that has happened in over 30 tournaments that happened in the last year.”
For more information about the Puerto Rico Open, visit puertoricoopen.golf.
- Yamaira Muñiz Pérez contributed to this story.
Editor's note: This story was updated with the most recent economic projections.