Puerto Rico

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Sports Tourism Helping Puerto Rico Weather Physical, Economic Aftershocks

18 Jan, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

We’ve already seen sports tourism position itself to be a player in helping Puerto Rico come back from disaster, including crippling debt in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017. Now, it will be called upon again.

The 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the coast of Puerto Rico, causing deaths and widespread injuries, island-wide power outages, damage to buildings and infrastructure, as well as a state of emergency, has an additional blow – that of an estimated $3.1 billion in economic loss, according to CNN. The figure accounts for projected damage to both public and private property, as well as lost tourism, wages and business.

And though parts of the island are still without power and have suffered enormous damage, sports events say they’re going forward – and it may be up to them to help the island stagger back to its feet. In addition, it will provide a sense of pride, and can draw attention to the island as an enduring destination.

A number of sports events are currently on the books for the coming months in Puerto Rico, and SDM contacted several for comment.

 The Puerto Rico Dragon Boat Festival, scheduled for January 25, says it is up and running.

“We will continue with the event as planned,” wrote a representative from Impact Dragon Boat. We are safe, the venue is in great condition, and the partnering hotels are ready to host our visitors. A second note to the team captains will be release today with the latest updates.”

IRONMAN, which offers an event on the island on March 15, noted, “It is devastating to hear about the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico. At this point, the earthquakes have not affected the course or the ability to host the event as scheduled. Officials will continue to monitor the situation.”

An IRONMAN event in Puerto Rico has the potential for significant positive impact on the island, since past events have generated $1.5 million each, and do much to promote tourism as well.

According to the organization’s website, in 2018, the IRONMAN Foundation provided more than $120,000 in grant funding to five local nonprofits to support Hurricane Maria recovery efforts and more than 100 athletes and volunteers participated in a rebuilding project the day after IRONMAN 70.3 Puerto Rico, helping to revitalize the homes and community of Barrio Ingenio, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The PGA TOUR, which has been planning the Puerto Rico Open, to take place on Coco Beach Golf and Country Club from February 20-23, is proceeding with the event, which, if it is anything like that of previous years, stands to pump some much-needed revenue into the island.

According to the PGA TOUR’s website from last year, the Puerto Rico Open has also become an important platform to promote the island as a world-class golf destination, as well as becoming a key driver of economic development. In 2019, the event was expected to generate over $10 million in economic impact to the Island, as well as 5,250 room nights, 600 direct and indirect jobs, 25 hours of Golf Channel coverage, a reach of 3.8 million viewers, and four days of golf for the more than 10,000 spectators in attendance. And Golf Magazine noted that in 2018, the Puerto Rico Open was changed to unofficial charity event, benefitting Hurricane Maria relief efforts that year.

For those who want to try the course once they’ve seen it in action, Coco Beach also reports that is has remained open and that the property was unaffected by the quakes.

Still, there is plenty of uncertainty as the island tries to find a way forward. The Divas Half Marathon and 5K Puerto Rico was originally scheduled to run on February 9 in San Juan. The Divas staff posted a note on its website, stating, "Our hearts are heavy with the recent devastation of South Puerto Rico due to the earthquakes. Puerto Rico is now undergoing its recovery efforts and in doing so most of the resources we would need to produce the Divas Half Marathon and 5K are being utilized in of this recovery process (police, fire, medical, equipment, water, etc.). We cannot be guaranteed that these resources will be available to us in three short weeks and therefore, after working diligently with local officials, we have decided that postponing the event to October 25th, 2020 is the best alternative. All registrations from the February 9th date will automatically be transferred to the October 25th event."

Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination marketing organization, told SDM they were unaware of any specific sports events that had been cancelled.

Those who have been planning tournaments on the island are advised to check with any DMO or onsite representative they may be working with, for updates on the status of venues, accommodations and transportation. In addition, an article in The Points Guy notes, those with trip protection or travel insurance should make sure to keep all receipts from planned travel as they will be needed if it becomes necessary to file a claim. (Event owners should pass this information to all those who have been planning to make the trip as well.)

According to USA TODAY, Discover Puerto Rico has stated that Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, the main airport on the island; the San Juan Cruise Port; the Ponce Cruise Port and Airport; the Puerto Rico Convention Center; as well as hotels and attractions in northern Puerto Rico were not directly affected by the quake. The San Juan airport (SJU, another major travel hub), initially had to run on generators after losing power but was operational.

Those planning flights into Puerto Rico should plan for additional time, Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, told USA TODAY. Several airlines are issuing travel waivers for those traveling to, through and/or from Puerto Rico, including SouthwestAmerican AirlinesDelta Air LinesJetBlue AirwaysSpirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines.

The island is still suffering from the lingering effects of Hurricane Maria in 2017, will some damage still not repaired, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Those who would like to contribute to relief efforts on the island should make sure they are doing so through legitimate avenues. News6 in Orlando compiled this list of verified resources.

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