Tourism accounts for just 6% to 7% of Puerto Rico’s economy.
In my opinion, that number should be twice as high. And we at the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce are supporting the efforts of our partners at Discover Puerto Rico, who are aggressively trying to bolster those tourism numbers.
Fortunately, Discover Puerto Rico has a lot to work with. Few spots in the Caribbean, or anywhere, have the cultural richness, natural beauty, culinary delights and fascinating history as our beautiful Island. But competition for travel dollars – be it from tourists or corporate event planners – is intense, especially amid the COVID-19 crisis and, before that, natural disasters that sent Puerto Rico and other destinations into a tailspin.
Puerto Rico also has to deal with the cost factor. As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is more expensive than some other Caribbean destinations, with higher labor, water, electrical power and other resource costs. Those are facts we can’t change, and it simply means we have to work harder to convince potential travelers that Puerto Rico is worth the extra expense (and it is!)
Thus, Discover Puerto Rico – which was formally founded and funded by the Legislature in 2017 – is a much-needed institution. And their mission as a destination marketing organization (DMO) – an official entity that promotes a location as an attractive travel destination – perfectly aligns with ours.
Since 1913, the Chamber has supported and stimulated the growth of Puerto Rico’s businesses in ways that contribute to the Island’s economic growth. While Discover Puerto Rico is a much younger organization, they have hit the ground running, overcoming natural disasters and a pandemic to position Puerto Rico as a must-see destination for tourists and corporate meetings.
And it’s working.
Despite a century’s worth of devastating hurricanes, earthquakes and a pandemic in just the last four years, Puerto Rico tourism – with a major helping hand from Discover Puerto Rico – has achieved some amazing results. In May and June, room nights sold on the Island surpassed the figures for 2019, which was the Island’s best year to date; and meetings and convention leads also outpaced 2019 totals for nearly every week.
The future looks bright, too. Independent research carried out by Destination Analysts shows that two-thirds of consumers residing in markets targeted by Discover Puerto Rico recalled hearing about travel to Puerto Rico in the past six months and 40% of them anticipate visiting Puerto Rico in the next two years. These figures are much higher than what has been reported by most U.S. states and other Caribbean destinations.
Why such impressive results? Much of it can be attributed to aggressive, highly targeted advertising, marketing and promotional campaigns by the DMO, plus their strong commitment to working hand-in-hand with other organizations, like the Chamber, to share ideas and resources. Indeed, the Chamber has entered into a strategic agreement with Discover Puerto Rico, whereby our staff participate in their marketing webinars and conferences, and vice versa.
Plus, the DMO has given all Chamber members complete and free access to its extensive photo library. This is a significant resource, especially for smaller companies that are able to use Discover Puerto Rico’s high-quality photography of the Island in their advertisements and promotional materials, helping them to save considerable expense.
While Discover Puerto Rico has done an incredible job of “selling” Puerto Rico to the world, many Island residents know very little about the organization and its amazing work positioning our diverse and unique Island as a premier travel destination.
And that’s exactly the reason why I’m writing this article. Discover Puerto Rico is another one of our Island’s treasures, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for showing the world that Puerto Rico is the place to go for travel.