Puerto Rico’s culture is “in the best historical moment,” but the powers that be have failed in promoting its riches to attract more tourism, particularly the Destination Marketing Organization.
During an interview on the “En Una Hora,” analysis program on the 1140 AM station, a panel composed by Daphne Barbeito, president of Cruceros To Go, Emil Medina, partner of the Buena Vibra marketing firm, and Economist Heidie Calero, agreed the problem is the lack of a clear strategy and vision for Puerto Rico’s tourism sector.
“As a business idea, the DMO is a good idea that has been completely torn apart and ruined at its maximum expression,” Barbeito said, referring to Discover Puerto Rico, the entity in charge of promoting Puerto Rico beyond the island’s shores.
Prior to the DMO’s inception in 2018, those promotional efforts were the responsibility of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., which had a $60 million budget. Of that amount, $25 million would go to campaigns.
“But they have taken that $25 million and transferred it to an entity that was supposed to be independent and that runs with some extraordinary operating expenses,” she said, noting that of the DMO’s 13 board seats, nine have been named by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
“As a business idea, it was fatal to have taken away the money from the Tourism Co. because you have segmented an effort that is vital for our island’s economic development,” she said during the radio program in which News is my Business participates.
Meanwhile, Calero said the tourism sector has a true potential that has not been developed, “and that’s not something new, it’s been like that for decades and it’s embarrassing that tourism hasn’t made more advances on this island.”
While she said the DMO represented hope to move in that direction, “the problem is, as usual, who you have heading those entities. If you have someone who doesn’t have the knowledge, it doesn’t matter that you pay them a huge salary.”
She said Puerto Rico’s tourism industry is currently at a crossroads, where “if you don’t have a campaign with clear objectives and strategies, it’s a problem.”
One of the points that the three interviewees agreed upon is Puerto Rico’s lack of a true brand.
“Puerto Rico has never had a brand. There have been multiple campaigns, but never a brand. The truth is that we do have a brand, ‘La Isla del Encanto,’ [‘The Island of Enchantment’] but we don’t want to recognize it,” Barbeito said.
“We are known everywhere — on social media, in other countries — as ‘La Isla del Encanto,’ so I don’t understand why we have to fight a concept that the world already knows,” she said.
The perception of “enchantment” is what Puerto Rico possesses, which makes it unique, said Medina, who specializes in developing branding efforts for its client base.
“That care, that warmth that people express, that’s the ‘Island of Enchantment,’ beyond the sun and the beach. It’s our essence and the brand that positions us,” he said.
He said Puerto Rico is experiencing “its best moment in history in terms of culture, which the island must now jump on to create new paradigms and provoke new ways of doing things.”
“That’s where you have to move the government and the private sector,” Medina said.