Puerto Rico’s tourism service providers face a number of challenges and opportunities to do business, including branding and infrastructure and mobility issues, according to a joint study by the Foundation for Puerto Rico and students from José A. (Tony) Santana International School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts at the Universidad del Este.
The tourism sector also faces a need for business sophistication, government support and partnerships and alliances, according to the findings of the study released last week.
“The study emerges as a response to the need to understand what the current state of our visitor’s economy is, so we can conceptualize and spur strategies that allow us to strengthen our economy, while attracting more visitors to the island,” said Foundation Chairman John Borschow.
In the area of branding, the study noted: the need to go beyond the traditional offer of beaches and Old San Juan; the lack of a proper mapping of the tourist area; and the importance to elevate the visibility of the unique experiences Puerto Rico has to offer, among others. Within the area of infrastructure and mobility, the study pointed to the lack of a transportation system that can take visitors outside the metropolitan area, and the lack of proper signaling on the roads.
While businesses need to develop better employee training, a customer-service culture and expertise in promotion and marketing strategies, the government needs to step up support by addressing the lack of incentives, the difficulty in obtaining permits, the lack of support for business owners, and the failure to properly train public-sector employees, the study showed.
Meanwhile, the study revealed areas of opportunity to boost the visitor economy and strengthen Puerto Rico’s tourism ecosystem: develop and strengthen marketing by highlighting authentic and unique experiences that exist in Puerto Rico; improving business sophistication and expanding service training offered by the Tourism Company to more providers; promoting a more agile and modern Puerto Rico that maximizes the power of technology; and developing partnerships and alliances to facilitate networking and the coordination of services.
The findings of the study are the result of research conducted by Universidad del Este students, based on a model developed at Stanford University.
Foundation for Puerto Rico’s Program Manager, Giselle Nevares, said based on the criteria provided by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the nonprofit and the school established the two primary methods for the execution of the study.
The first was to create a list based on WTTC’s categories: housing; retail; food and beverage; cultural, sporting, and recreational activities; transportation; the public sector; and community initiatives. With that in place, the study incorporated Tourism Co. data to identify the location of the respondents according geographical areas.
“The study shows the patterns of our local service provider ecosystem. This allows us to identify the challenges and opportunities that exist, so we that can strategically plan for our visitors economy to be a priority for everyone,” Borschow said.
“In Puerto Rico, we have the capacity to duplicate the direct and indirect benefits that visitors represent in our economy, but we need to convince ourselves that the visitor economy is the strategic axis needed for Puerto Rico’s economic development, and that it represents the best short- and long-term opportunity to change our economic course,” he said.