Group business represents one-quarter of room nights booked at Puerto Rico’s top 10 largest meeting hotels, while the top market segments choosing the island for their meetings are corporate (41 percent), associations (34 percent) and social, military, educational, religious, fraternal organizations (25 percent), Milton Segarra, president of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau said Wednesday.
While the local Bureau is competing for convention business against cities like Miami, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale in Florida, in the Caribbean, top competitors are Jamaica, Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, he said.
“In the [U.S. mainland] alone, there are 1.8 million meetings and conventions held each year, representing more than $263 billion in spending on hotels, transportation, entertainment, dining and more,” Segarra said. “We need to come together as a destination to tap into the enormous potential that meetings and conventions offer as an economic driver for our local tourism community.”
Outlining his vision for the organization and Puerto Rico as a world-class meetings and conventions destination, Segarra discussed the aggressive, corporate turn-around approach being implemented and key steps taken in his first hundred days leading the PRCB to restructure, refocus and reinvigorate the organization to better compete within the marketplace.
He presented his strategy to more than 250 member-partners representing the local tourism industry and other businesses directly serving the meetings and conventions market during the PRCB’s annual membership meeting Wednesday.
“Innovation is a critical component to our success if Puerto Rico wants to compete in the global arena of the meetings and conventions,” Segarra said. “We’ve taken a look at how we can work smarter, innovate and incorporate new technologies and strategies into our activities. We’ve already begun implementing a new approach to succeed in this ever-evolving, highly-competitive industry.”
‘Meet Puerto Rico’
As a first step toward rebranding and part of a growing trend among destination marketing organizations, the PRCB will begin doing business under the “Meet Puerto Rico” brand.
“We’ve been using ‘Meet Puerto Rico’ as part of our communication strategy and it’s time to fully embrace it as a brand,” said Segarra. “It’s simple, clear and provides us with a more commercially-viable way to describe what we offer meeting planners, members and the community as a whole.”
With the appointment of a new Destination Support Services Director, the PRCB has implemented a major change in how to work from the perspective of services with meeting planners and other clients. Under the new structure, meeting planners with business booked through the PRCB will have a dedicated group service executive to provide assistance throughout the meeting planning process.
From site inspections through wrap-up reports, on anything from ground transportation to entertainment, offsite-dining to printing services and amenity gifts, there will be one point person to ensure client’s needs are being met in a timely and professional manner.
“For the first time, we’re providing a truly ‘one-stop-shop’ approach for the meeting planner,” Segarra explained. “We’re confident this will result in an exemplary planning experience for planners that will transfer into better delegate experiences and repeat business for Puerto Rico and its partners.”
Meanwhile, he said several new selling initiatives have already been put in place at the PRCB aimed at developing new business leads, building stronger relationships with local influencers who can help drive group business and working with industry partners to close group business.
Among other things, the PRCB will launch the “Meet Puerto Rico Development Fund,” providing $2 million in sponsorship funding every year to remain competitive in the market while encouraging group business. The entity will focusing its efforts on selling primarily through the San Juan office, with a focus on the sports/entertainment, luxury, medical and other niche groups, and will host a “Puerto Rico Destination Sell-a-Thon” in November, when PRCB sales executives will team up with hotel sales partners to coordinate calls to help close existing business leads, among other strategies.
In addition, the PRCB sales team will focus selling activities at international and regional tradeshows which draw meeting planners with potential group business, participate in Bureau-hosted client events and sales blitzes, as well as actively participate in the Bureau’s upcoming Puerto Rico Showcase taking place on the island in December.
Brand marketing and communications
In addition to the new “Meet Puerto Rico” brand, the PRCB has appointed a new marketing director, as well as a new advertising agency and social media marketing partner to promote the destination to the meetings and conventions market.
TURKEL Brands, an international branding company and SparkLoft Media, a social media agency, will take over the duties of working with the Bureau to market Puerto Rico as a world-class convention destination. A new advertising campaign will be rolled out in 2014, he said.
“This new era for the Bureau not only represents innovation, but empowerment. Empowerment of the ‘Meet Puerto Rico’ team, our member-partners and our industry,” he said. “It’s about incorporating simplicity and authenticity in all of our messages and actions.”