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Op-Ed: Under Dean’s ‘inspiring leadership,’ DMO guides island’s tourism boom

Just think of the hundreds of compelling places across the globe — exotic beaches, tropical rain forests, charming villages, thriving cities — that could make for an ideal spot for a vacation or business event. Competition is fierce in the travel industry, during even the best of times.

And that makes the work being done at Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s official Destination Marketing Organization, so impressive. Tasked with positioning this unique Caribbean oasis as a premier destination for leisure, business and events, Discover Puerto Rico has quickly transformed the island’s tourism industry by aggressively marketing its diverse charms.

This has occurred despite a series of natural disasters, beginning with Hurricanes Irma and María in 2017, that devastated large portions of Puerto Rico. Despite these and other cataclysmic events, including the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, Discover Puerto Rico has soldiered on, keeping the island top-of-mind among tourists, travel agents and corporate event planners seeking the perfect spot for family vacations or professional meetings and business events.

The results speak for itself. In three years, Discover Puerto Rico has launched a successful brand re-positioning of the island, to present Puerto Rico as a premier destination that is culturally rich, resilient, and welcoming. And that has led to increased visitor spending and longer stays.

Amazingly, despite the many challenges brought on by the pandemic, Discover Puerto Rico has drawn travelers back to the island in droves by emphasizing both its desirability and commitment to safety.

In fact, hotel demand in 2021 has outpaced that of 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. And the international airport in San Juan welcomed a record number of passengers in July, a significant achievement that is helping boost Puerto Rico’s economic recovery.

For these reasons, and countless more, I’m delighted that Discover Puerto Rico’s CEO, Brad Dean, has just been named national State Tourism Director of the Year for 2021 by the organization I lead, the U.S. Travel Association.

It marks the first time that a Puerto Rico leader has won the award, and Brad’s honor is truly deserved.

Even despite near-constant roadblocks, Brad has inspired his talented team — 75% of whom are native Puerto Ricans — to leverage research, data and sophisticated digital marketing tools to keep potential travelers apprised of the island’s incredible tourism offerings while keeping health and safety at the forefront. Importantly, under Brad’s leadership, the organization is bolstering Puerto Rico’s tourism economy, helping the thousands of its citizens who work in tourism achieve better livelihoods.

He and his devoted, 49-person team have successfully positioned Puerto Rico as a premier destination that is both resilient and welcoming. These efforts — many of which have garnered travel industry and marketing awards — have directly translated into increased visitor spending and longer stays on the island.

Author Roger Dow is president and CEO of the US Travel Association.

In Los Angeles recently, Brad was presented with the State Tourism Director of the Year award at our Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) annual conference. As I said at the time, Brad truly understands the culture and spirit of Puerto Rico and uses that knowledge in messaging and campaigns that successfully position Puerto Rico as a not-to-be-missed tourism destination.

Recently, Brad had this to say about Discover Puerto Rico’s efforts, and I think it perfectly captures why the National Council of State Tourism Directors of the U.S. Travel Association chose him for this prestigious acknowledgement.

“Our goal remains the same: to lead a recovery effort that outpaces the competition and launches Puerto Rico beyond pre-pandemic levels, enabling us to reach record heights for our visitor economy,” he said.

Brad and his Discover Puerto Rico team are well on their way to achieving those goals. With advocates like Brad and his devoted staff, Puerto Rico is poised to further its reputation as one of the most attractive destinations in the Caribbean … and, indeed, the world.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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