Op-Ed: Discover Puerto Rico and its commitment to small businesses
In Puerto Rico, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, small and medium businesses (SME) accounted for about 75% of all private employment; and nearly 85% of the 6,000 tourism-related businesses were SME. These facts create an urgency to restore external tourism, as soon as possible.
On the other hand, reopening tourism-related businesses and managing their recovery in a way that is safe, attractive for tourists, and economically viable will require a greater collaboration and assistance between different government, professional, and trade organizations, than we have ever seen before.
During the pandemic, the 17 industries that constitute our tourism sector have been the most affected, and many businesses have been closed for months. Amongst these 17 industries are hotels, casinos, restaurants, bars, attractions, transportation, travel agents, tour planners, operators and guides, meetings and wedding planners, rental providers, and others.
As a result of the needed preventative measures taken, about 30% of the 80,000 jobs in the sector, and hundreds of jobs at suppliers in other sectors servicing tourism businesses, remain in furlough, reduced hours, or have been lost. Our collective goal shall be to enable the recovery of as many tourism-related SME as possible. Reestablishing tourism will benefit our 78 municipalities.
To overcome this challenge will require that we look for all avenues to improve collaboration, safety, security, digital marketing, and service quality. On the positive side, while there are gaps in some key components, 2021 is seen as a period of substantial positive transformation for the tourism sector, with good signs to guide a faster recovery for Puerto Rico.
To our advantage, several internal and external surveys indicate that the US mainland traveler — our main market — is ready for adventure; and this intent was confirmed during the holidays. As vaccination increases, interest to travel will accelerate, and Puerto Rico offers a vast majority of the natural attractions and outdoor experiences travelers are looking for, and within the US.
However, we must acknowledge that we will face fierce competition from other destinations, and SME must be ready to contend.
One main task is to achieve a coherent collaboration of the main organizations, public and private, large and small, to establish and effectively execute a Destination Management Plan. To accelerate our tourism recovery, SME should consider partnering with Discover Puerto Rico, to implement solutions to expand their exposure to the local and external visitors and educate its staff to provide superior service in the post pandemic environment.
To start, each tourism-related SME shall ensure it is registered, has, and maintains a profile within the DPR’s webpage, and attends the educational webinars. Currently, more than 5,200 SMEs, located across the 78 municipalities, are listed in Discover Puerto Rico’s website; however, only a few profiles are regularly updated by its owners.
Discover Puerto Rico has produced more than 14,000 curated pictures and more than 200 hours of videos that are available for use by every registered entity. To improve its marketing, tourism-related SME should consider accessing the research studies available at its website, and participate in the quarterly updates to the industry, where the latest trends and promotional plans are discussed.
While presence at Discover Puerto Rico’s website and social media, as well as the use of its assets is cost-free, these profiles are a competitive advantage for are widely exposed and considered by possible travelers to Puerto Rico.
Tourism has changed and at this juncture, some key indicators appear to favor Puerto Rico. However, to succeed, each SME must upgrade its market positioning and Discover Puerto Rico is committed to assist in achieving this goal.
Tourism is one of Puerto Rico’s main anchors to stimulate economic activity, attract new money to the island, and recover thousands of jobs, in the short and medium term; and we need stronger small and medium businesses to make this happen.