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Experts in branding, economy say DMO is failing in its goals to promote P.R.

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.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

Comments (3)

  1. Kenneth Davison McClintock

    News stories always report that $XX millions will be used for tourism promotion. I would suggest that journalists first determine how much was invested 25 or 30 years ago, in 1994 or 1989, determine the present value of that and compare whatever amount is now being reported against that present value—the results will probably be revealing, unpleasantly so.

    Also, reports should also include how much is actually invested in the placement of publicity, what people actually see and hear., not the cost of promotional parties or production costs.

  2. I disagree with this assessment. The impact of Discover Puerto Rico’s efforts has been seen across social media, news and major TV shows in the U.S., all promoting Puerto Rico’s unique culture, natural beauty and the welcoming warmth of our people. As a member of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the U.S., I am proud of how the island is being presented to potential travelers. As a marketing and branding professional, I think the strategy is right on, delivering single-minded messages to the most appealing travel prospects and diversifying these according to their vacation needs and wants. Could it be better? There is always room for improvement, as with any business or marketing endeavor. We do, we optimize, we analyze and we refine our strategies over time. But the results of what’s been done to date are evident, both in hotel sales and media exposure. The fact that the current Governor of PR has appointed members to the board of the DMO is a totally different issue, more political in nature. Separemos la gimnasia de la magnesia.

  3. Narayan De Jesus

    I seems to me that a concerted effort show be placed into the logistics of getting our visitors around P.R. There’s a whole experience available in every town that our tourist miss out on. Each town center could potentially benefit exponentially from such vision. They could grow a network of places of interest as more and more folks come through.

    Imagine a visitor with the ability to leave a hotel and find a system that links San Juan with all the towns east or west. Imagine the same thing in Ponce.

    Let’s put dollars into something practical on the ground.

    The feeling I get is that all the effort put into these promotions doesn’t consider the visitor in that their options are truly limited to the experiences of Old City, Rainforest, and a few other places.

    When people stay at the hotels and spend their earned cash there it is different than when they enliven a town center and its small businesses.

    So much has been spoken previously of making our visitors stay a whole week, but are we not asking them today to see San Juan for 4 or 5 days then?

    I truly believe the ability to enhance this ability will catapult our industry.

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