Brad Dean


Discover Puerto Rico

Interview with Matt Ward



Since becoming CEO of Discover Puerto Rico in July 2018 – the Island’s first-ever Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) – Brad Dean has led the privatization of tourism marketing in Puerto Rico, helping it achieve record tourism results within two years.


Prior to this, he drove tourism growth in Myrtle Beach, SC, from 11 million visitors to 20 million visitors, which transformed the destination and sparked unprecedented economic growth throughout the region. Brad is well-versed in the golf niche and understands it can be a potent tourism driver for Puerto Rico.


Dean was appointed as Vice Chair of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) in December 2020. This Board advises the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States.



How have major golf facilities In Puerto Rico fared during the pandemic?

It has been a spectrum – many have done extremely well with a significant uptick in local play and / or members which helped mitigate lost golf travel rounds. Others have had a harder go of it, just like many businesses worldwide.


Were total number of rounds played in 2020 ahead or behind number achieved pre-pandemic in 2019?

Same answer like the first question – many have exceeded pre-pandemic numbers — others have not.

TPC Dorado Beach East Course

What has been the most common challenge faced by the major golf resorts?

Making up for the lost golf rounds typically played by Island visitors. Unlike destinations with drive markets, Puerto Rico resorts depend on golfers arriving via airplane or cruise ship.

The new year is already underway — has there been a spike in 2021 reservations and if so, what’s been the estimated percentage increase to date?

It has been a roller-coaster, mirroring world COVID-19 developments. As the pandemic goes, so goes reservations. That is, prior to the resurgent spread in late fall / early winter, reservations were rising significantly.


But they decreased as the virus began rebounding. Now that the vaccines are beginning to roll out, Discover Puerto Rico’s research shows that travel intention is rising markedly as people consider traveling soon and particularly into spring and summer.

Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Championship Course

What is the approximate percentage total for golf visitors from the States to Puerto Rico versus all other countries?

Most golf visitors to Puerto Rico come from the U.S. because the Island is an American territory — not requiring a passport for U.S. citizens — it is bilingual, US currency is used, and easy to reach as the air hub of the Caribbean.


However, we are increasingly targeting the U.K. and Continental Europe as residents of both hold many of the demographics that align well with all that Puerto Rico offers.


The estimated amount of golf dollars spent from continental USA visits is what?

Not available – this is private information the golf properties don’t announce.

Palmas Athletic Club golf course bunkers coconut trees and lush foliage

The PGA TOUR is set to return with the Puerto Rico Open planned for late February opposite the WGC event being held in Mexico City over the same dates (Feb. 22-28). Many early 2021 events have announced no fans will be permitted in the gallery. Is that likely going to happen for the event in Puerto Rico?

Yes. Nonetheless, government officials are working closely with the PGA TOUR to safeguard the health and safety of athletes, staff members, partners, residents, et al., as this remains our top priority.


In terms of marketing efforts, fair to say, the eastern seaboard of the USA is the primary emphasis point?

Yes, as this is the closest U.S. Mainland region to Puerto Rico, with the most significant air capacity, but we target many other U.S. hubs and had been growing visitors from them prior to the pandemic.

Par 3 Ocean Panorama at Palmas Athletic Club

The peak months for golf are normally during winter and early spring — are there plans to highlight summer months as an attractive alternative time frame for visits?

We promote Puerto Rico as a year-round golf destination given its tropical weather. And while the high season runs from Thanksgiving to April, we draw many year-round visitors who golf, including summer when families can travel more readily with school out. However, we anticipate numerous shifting visitation patterns post-COVID, as many workers will remain remote and school calendars will fluctuate.


The biggest challenges going forward – short and long term – is what and what specific plans are being implemented to deal with each?

Assuming we continue to trend well with the vaccine roll out and travel rises globally throughout 2021, the biggest challenge going forward – both short and long term – will be translating the growth in local golf to golf travel. While golf rounds played increased dramatically locally in 2020, golf travel obviously diminished. As air travel increasingly returns, there will be many places battling to capture traveling golfers.


Prior to the pandemic, Puerto Rico was ascending on all tourism fronts, including in the golf niche, thanks to the superb collaboration between the Destination Marketing Organization (Discover Puerto Rico), the tourism and hospitality stakeholders, and the government. So, while it will be a key challenge, we’re confident that as travel resumes more robustly, we’ll recapture the momentum and successful wave we had created and were riding pre-pandemic.

Links Course at Royal Isabela



For Puerto Rico travel guidelines, visit:


For more information on Island golf courses, resorts, and other destination attractions, visit: 


Discover Puerto Rico is a private, not for-profit Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) whose mission is to make Puerto Rico visible to the world as a premier travel destination. The DMO will bring prosperity to the people of Puerto Rico by collaboratively positioning the Island’s diversity and uniqueness for leisure, business and events.


It is responsible for all global marketing, sales and promotion of the destination and works collaboratively with key local governmental and non-governmental players throughout Puerto Rico’s visitor economy and community at large, to empower economic growth. Visit: www.DiscoverPuertoRico.com


Photos: courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico