Aerial view of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy Puerto Rico Tourism Company Condado.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico--Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s first-ever destination marketing organisation (DMO), celebrated its one-year anniversary on July 1, announcing that tourism is the strongest it’s ever been, as the destination tracks towards a record-breaking year.
Year-to-date revenue is the highest in the island’s history, with US $445 million reported through May. The island has received 1.67 million visitors across the San Juan, Ponce and Aguadilla airports in the first few months of this year, the highest number of airport arrivals in the January-April timeframe in the island’s history.
“Despite the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimating a recovery between 2021 and 2022, and New Orleans, [Louisiana – Ed.], taking eight years to get back to pre-[Hurricane] Katrina levels, we set an aggressive goal to fast-track the visitor economy at a record pace, for the benefit of local communities,” said Discover Puerto Rico Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brad Dean.
Since its inception last July, Discover Puerto Rico quickly embarked on a mission to reposition Puerto Rico’s brand, fully capitalising on the island’s rich tourism product to thrive as a leading Caribbean destination. The organisation identified five major goals and pursued them aggressively.
The first was to decrease negative perception. Discover Puerto Rico addressed the negative perceptions travellers and meeting planners had, to strengthen both the leisure and meetings and conventions segments. As a result, consumers’ likelihood to visit Puerto Rico increased six points over the past year, despite significantly reduced marketing budgets. Among meeting planners, post-Hurricane Maria perception of Puerto Rico as a fully recovered or ready for business destination has increased fivefold (from 8 per cent to 41 per cent) over the past year. Desirability for booking meetings and conventions has grown almost three time (from 24 per cent to 71 per cent) this year.
Secondly, given inconsistent branding through the years, Discover Puerto Rico repositioned the brand for growth. They developed a new brand identity and launched a research-based marketing strategy along with a new brand campaign, which has already yielded results and will have significant long-term impact. Data show that consumers who are exposed to the new brand campaign are staying nearly three days longer than those who haven’t. Also, media coverage of areas outside San Juan has grown by a factor of four since last July, and there has been a tremendous growth in the number of visitors outside of San Juan. Arrivals into Aguadilla are 44 per cent higher than the previous record from 2017, and the airport is on pace to receive 800,000 passengers this year, which would shatter the existing record. Media coverage of Puerto Rico most prominently features culture, arts and cuisine, followed by natural attractions, versus just beaches.
The third approach has been revamped digital marketing. Discover Puerto Rico is more strongly connecting with travellers online. The new website, revamped approach to driving social media engagement and strong digital ad performance, are proving effective. Since its launch, traffic to the new website is up 128 per cent. Pages viewed per session are up 34 per cent, showing people are engaging with a range of content. Time on the website is up 31 per cent and bounce rate is down by 13 per cent, meaning the content is driving interest. Page views are also up 228 per cent. Discover Puerto Rico has seen nearly 40,000 referrals to local businesses and points of interest.
The fourth initiative was to catapult the meetings and conventions business. Discover Puerto Rico took a weak pipeline of sales prospects and injected strong interest to propel Puerto Rico as a leading force in the space, as they elevate the island’s status as the most technologically-advanced destination in the Caribbean, offering ease of traveling, combined with unparalleled culture and diverse natural offerings. Leads-generated and contracted events are the highest they have been in five years. Requested and contracted rooms are also at an all-time high. And conversions on bookings are up 121 per cent (from 14 per cent to 31 per cent). Discover Puerto Rico estimates over $92 million in economic impact, with groups already signed and another $288 million in potential impact from opportunities in the pipeline. This effort secured Connect 2021, which will bring a gathering of 1,700 meeting planners across a wide range of sectors.
The fifth and final thrust has been for increased operational efficiency and effectiveness. The DMO is preparing for industry accreditation to position Discover Puerto Rico among the highest in quality and performance standards for destination marketing and management. A year in advance of being eligible, the DMO checks off meeting high standards in areas including governance, finance, human resources, sales, communications, branding, destination development and research. The DMO already complies with 70 per cent of the mandatory accreditation standards and 40 per cent of the aspirational or voluntary standards of leading DMOs.
“We’re thrilled to report that Puerto Rico’s tourism is the strongest it’s ever been. However, this is just the first step. Our ultimate objective is to put the transformative power of travel to work in Puerto Rico, by doubling the visitor economy and continuing to benefit the island’s residents and businesses. It’s critical to ensure we have the right resources to continue this momentum,” said Dean.
The destination is seeing numerous enhancements to its product, drawing travellers to its growing list of experiences. The island’s rich culture, cuisine, history, arts, music and dance are big selling points and its natural wonders include the only tropical rainforest in the US Forest Service, El Yunque National Forest, and three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays.
The island has also become a hotspot in the Caribbean for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning plus (LGBTQ+) community with a culture of inclusivity and a variety of attractions and nightlife.
And, with growing hospital developments and the benefit of recovery in a tropical climate, the medical tourism sector will also be one of growth in the future.
Among Puerto Rico’s future endeavours are the 500-year anniversary of San Juan, with cultural events beginning in Fall 2019, the opening of District San Juan, a five-acre hospitality and entertainment district, and being named the host destination for the upcoming World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) 2020 Global Summit.
For more information on the destination, visit: DiscoverPuertoRico.com .