Discover Puerto Rico, the island Destination Marketing Organization, will be leading the recovery of the tourism sector of the island, after the pandemic of COVID-19 anticipates a loss of 1.9 million room nights, which is three times what was lost months after Hurricane María, organization officials said.
The DMO has based all of its planning on research and has been working to maintain the island at top-of-mind for consumers, said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico is facing two battles, the public health and the financial crisis this pandemic has caused around the world. For us, the most important thing is to speed the recovery cycle and save the 80,000 jobs that represent the tourism sector on the island,” he said.
“Every week we’re seeing updated research from our partners based on facts and data, that are driving us the direction of what the consumer is thinking and if they want to travel after it is safe to travel,” said Dean.
During its second virtual industry update regarding the effects of COVID-19 on the Puerto Rican tourism sector, relevant data was shared with more than 350 participants.
Over the past two months, changes in air capacity is down 13% through the end of 2020. An increase in seats starting September through December has been seen — a strong signal in the return of leisure visitors in the third and fourth quarters, the DMO said.
Destination Analysts research shows consumers are looking to relax on a beach or in remote spaces that connect with nature, which positions Puerto Rico in a product advantage, he said.
Ongoing monitoring of the consumer sentiment helps the organization understand the messaging, as well as the correct audience and timing, segmenting consumers by geographic and demographic differences.
“Following our COVID-19 Action Plan, we are still on the Regroup Phase, it is important to understand that before entering the next phase we’ll be looking for key benchmarks like a decline in the number of new COVID cases on the island, travel restrictions into and on the island are lifted or reduced, and of course, we need to see a critical mass of tourism related businesses reopen in order to accommodate tourists,” said Leah Chandler, CMO of Discover Puerto Rico.
Keeping Puerto Rico ‘top of mind’
The organization has been constantly working on various efforts to maintain Puerto Rico in the minds of everyone, targeting those travelers that are dreaming of traveling again soon, officials said.
Discover Puerto Rico together with local industry partners, has worked on 13 activations of virtual tours, from salsa lessons to cooking demonstrations, generating more than 451 million impressions.
It also launched virtual backgrounds for Zoom, virtual puzzles with images of Puerto Rico, sounds of Puerto Rico video series and upcoming guided live tours with Google Earth and virtual postcards, among others, it said.
To help local business owners, Discover Puerto Rico has rolled out a series of online training videos in Spanish, covering eight to 10 topics, that will be very beneficial to help them succeed their business in these times of crisis, executives said.
Some of the topics that will be covered will be: “Five ways to optimize partnerships during COVID-19;” “Best practices for managing your social media presence during a crisis;” “10 tips for connecting with journalists and influencers throughout COVID-19;” and, “Google my business update and instructions,” among others.
Meeting planners still working
Discover Puerto Rico cited a recent global poll by the Northstar Meetings Group that suggested that meeting planners continue to work, reporting 83% still working full time.
“For this reason, our sales team continuous to work on obtaining leads for future events and travel to the island. Although there is no doubt that lead volume is substantially down, we are still seeing activity and have produced 40 new leads for more than 23,000 rooms or close to $20 million in economic impact since the lockdown began,” Dean said.
On the leisure side, Discover Puerto Rico is working with partners to create a variety of promotions that will call the attention of future travelers to the island.
“Discover Puerto Rico has not, and will not, stop promoting Puerto Rico. While this is not a time for paid advertising or customary sales activities, we’ll continue to keep Puerto Rico top-of-mind with our future visitors,” he said.
“We know this is not the time to travel to Puerto Rico, that doesn’t mean that need to stop talking about the island. For those who are dreaming of their next vacation, we want them to be dreaming about Puerto Rico,” Dean said.
“For those who are planning a future meeting or convention, we want them to be planning to come to Puerto Rico. For those who are tired of working from home, we’re ready to provide them a temporary escape, reminding them of beautiful beaches and sunsets, as well as, our rich culture, food and coffee” Dean said.