Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination marketing organization (DMO) does not expect stateside residents to start traveling again until the third quarter of 2020, as many people remain concerned about their health due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Puerto Rico is facing two battles, the public health and the financial crisis this pandemic has caused around the world. For us, the most important thing is to speed the recovery cycle and save the 80,000 jobs that represent the tourism sector on the island,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
Other figures put the number of tourism jobs on the island at 65,000, such as those of the Foundation for Puerto Rico.
The DMO projects a loss of 1.9 million room nights for the island due to the coronarivus, which is three times what was lost months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in Sept. 2017. Based on what has occurred in the past two months, changes in air capacity is down 13 percent through the end of 2020.
An increase in seats starting September through December is expected, a strong signal in the return of leisure visitors in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2020. “Every week we are seeing updated research from our partners based on facts and data, that are driving us the direction of what the consumer is thinking and if they want to travel after it is safe to travel,” Dean said.
Through research conducted by Destination Analysts, consumers said they are looking to relax on a beach or in remote spaces that connect with nature, which positions Puerto Rico in a product advantage. Monitoring consumer sentiment helps the DMO staff to understand the messaging, as well as the correct audience and timing, segmenting consumers by geographic and demographic differences.
“Following our COVID-19 Action Plan, we are still on the Regroup Phase. It is important to understand that before entering the next phase, we’ll be looking for key benchmarks like a decline in the number of new COVID cases on the island, travel restrictions into and on the island are lifted or reduced, and of course, we need to see a critical mass of tourism-related businesses reopen in order to accommodate tourists,” explained Leah Chandler, CMO of Discover Puerto Rico.
Family Visits And Leisure Travel To Bounce Back First
The travel industry, including major airlines like JetBlue, which serves Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean, are expecting family visits and leisure travel to bounce back before business travel.
JetBlue President and COO Joanna Geraghty said she projected family visits and leisure travel would return more quickly than business, which would be a benefit to JetBlue, which has a smaller share of business versus leisure than many of its competitors, according to businesstravelnews.com.
“Although the overall number of bookings remained extremely limited, we believe that we reached the bottom in terms of demand around mid-April, and expect to have a better sense of third and the fourth quarter of 2020 by early summer,” Geraghty said during a recent earnings call.
A recent global poll by the Northstar Meetings Group, suggested that meeting planners continue to work, reporting that 83 percent are still working full time. For this reason, the DMO sales team is working on leads for future events and travel to the island, Dean indicated. Although there is no doubt that lead volume is substantially down, the DMO said it is still seeing activity and has produced 40 new leads for over 23,000 rooms, which would translate to $20 million in economic impact since the lockdown began in mid-March.
On the leisure side, Discover Puerto Rico is working with partners to create a variety of promotions via social media that calls the attention of future travelers to the island. “While this is not a time for paid advertising or customary sales activities, we will continue to keep Puerto Rico top-of-mind with our future visitors… For those who are dreaming of their next vacation, we want them to be dreaming about Puerto Rico,” Dean said.