Op-Ed: Puerto Rico is poised to leverage its third frontier in tourism
Once upon a time, tourism in Puerto Rico meant just one thing: the beach.
Recently, thanks to the promotional talents of Discover Puerto Rico and operators with vision, a second tourism frontier emerged and solidified on the island: exciting experiences and adventures in municipalities away from the beach, with Toro Verde leading the pack. The Puerto Rican mountain range is luring new types of tourists, adventure seekers and nature lovers.
Now, Puerto Rico is ready for a third frontier of tourism, one that will help take the industry — already on pace to exceed 2019’s record totals — to even greater heights: making our brands and products become part of our touristic offer.
And what will drive this third frontier? Our people, which tourists who have visited state is the best part of Puerto Rico.
More than a collective group of individuals living in the archipelago, Puerto Ricans are defined by their culture. The same culture has been at the forefront of Latino mainstream media since the days of Menudo, FANIA and now, reggaeton.
And that creativity and will to express culture influences is the force behind the true hidden secret of Puerto Rico, which is the crafts and products made by our entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship was almost a taboo word in Puerto Rico until the last decade. Luckily, a growing entrepreneurship ecosystem is pushing new brands in traditional products and even innovation where we never thought possible.
These new companies and products, hand-in-hand with tourism, are going to be responsible for further driving the economic comeback of the island.
For instance, Puerto Rico has been synonymous with rum since the rum runner days, nevertheless the local industry didn’t see new players beyond Bacardi until recently, when brands such as Barrilito in Bayamón, Artesano in Jayuya, Don Pepón in Vega Alta and Crab island in Vieques changed the paradigm.
Now you can spend days touring several distilleries and learning the secrets of this Caribbean spirit. Beer is another traditional industry being transformed by small craft breweries that offer amazing quality and taste, such as Ocean Lab in Isla Verde, Old Harbor in Carolina, and others throughout the island.
Even though we have a strong cocktail culture on the island, innovation doesn’t stop with drinks. Amasar in Jayuya, a food production company focusing on breadfruit, is changing how we consume one of the best crops on the island. Pana, or breadfruit, is a classic with our abuelas, and can now be eaten as pancake flour.
Fashion is another industry being transformed by our creative culture. A Medias and Bien Cool are at the forefront of the global sock design trend while Caribe Social is portraying Caribbean idiosyncrasy in apparel.
Next time you go out, put on that “Pikete” T-shirt and the Puerto Rican swagger comes out naturally. Even if you are staying in with friends, your night can be transformed into a Boricua party with new card games such as Raitru and Briuskas.
Very few places on the planet have the privilege of including in their touristic offer a national rainforest, one of the top three beaches in the world, a world-renowned cavern system, the best rums on the planet, and a culinary tradition that mixes European, native and African heritage.
Now, with an added emphasis on the brands and products produced by our amazing citizens, Puerto Rico has all it needs to lure even more travelers to our gorgeous coastline and beyond.
Thanks to a new generation of Puerto Ricans, and the marketing skills of Discover Puerto Rico, our people today are following in the footsteps of those who took our culture into the Latino and US mainstream.
But instead of using music and dance, these entrepreneurs are creating a solid foundation for a new tourism revenue stream, driven by local intellectual property and manufacturing.
As a result, as travelers return to Puerto Rico, they will have the opportunity to venture beyond the first and second frontier and enjoy the third frontier of tourism supported by a new batch of trendsetters on the island.