DMO: Travel advisors have become experts in selling Puerto Rico
As consumers feel more comfortable traveling, many in the travel industry predict that travel advisors will play an enhanced role in helping them choose their destinations and travel safely, said Discover Puerto Rico.
That said, the island’s Destination Marketing Organization has partnered with these professionals to educate and provide them with tools to promote the island. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, Puerto Rico’s Travel Expert program was instrumental in keeping the island top of mind and enrollments and graduating experts in the program increased by 18%.
“When it became clear in March of 2020 that the leisure distribution channels would suffer and consumer campaigns would be placed on hold, we began to prepare for the inevitable recovery,” said Ed Carey, chief sales officer for Discover Puerto Rico.
“As travel advisors are often the first point of contact for many consumers and corporate business travelers, we chose to reinforce our partnerships with key agencies, consortia, airline vacation clubs, wholesalers and other buyers who consistently book Puerto Rico,” he said.
“The Travel Expert Program provides important facts and promotional materials designed to inform, engage and excite prospective tourists,” Carey added.
With no possibility of visiting agencies and attending trade shows, the DMO offered incentives to travel advisors to become Puerto Rico Master Experts. In 2020, there were 2,864 new enrollments and 1,618 graduations.
In 2021, Discover Puerto Rico has gained 1,811 enrollments and 737 graduates in the first five months of the year. This brings the total number of enrolled advisors to more than 20,000.
“To further the effort, we have partnered with the top producing consortia, with an emphasis on creating landing pages for Puerto Rico, and implementing actions to drive traffic to those sites, helping increase bookings both via the third parties and growing direct reservations to each property in the programs,” Carey explained.
“Companies like AAA, COSTCO, American Airlines Vacations, Apple Leisure Group, and organizations like ABC/CCRA, Internova, Travelsavers are multimillion and billion-dollar enterprises at the forefront of selling travel, and so are the tens of thousands of agents who are affiliated to them,” he said.
Virtuoso, a global network of agencies specializing in luxury and experiential travel, reported that 140 out of their 1,000 affiliated agencies have recorded sales to Puerto Rico hotels in 2021 that exceeded the first and second quarters of 2019 sales by 12% and 25% respectively.