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PRHTA looks to support creation of destination marketing organization

Saying the historical “flip-flopping” of tourism marketing campaigns for Puerto Rico has “confused the hell out of everybody,” the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association has set the ball rolling on establishing a destination marketing organization, or DMO, for the island.

To that effect, the PRHTA’s board has already approved the pursuit, which organization President Ismael Vega said will eventually allow the private sector to take control of the island’s marketing duties, currently in the hands of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.

“We have to take our destination in our own hands, marketing wise – I’m tired that one day we’re the islands of Puerto Rico, then we’re the continent of Puerto Rico,” said Vega. “We have confused the hell out of everybody in the United States with our ever-changing marketing strategy.”

A DMO is described as “charged with representing a specific destination and helping the long-term development of communities through a travel and tourism strategy,” according to Washington, D.C.-based Destination Marketing Association International.

“It’s very important to highlight and emphasize that the creation of the DMO is an island project, where all sectors of Puerto Rico should become involved. It is a team project that must include government branches and the private sector — and most importantly, it must enjoy the commitment of the Puerto Rican public,” Vega said. “Besides PRHTA, the DMO must have the active participation of the entire destination team, including the government, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, among others.”

DMO duties are multiple: serving as an official point of contact for convention and meeting planners, tour operators and visitors; assist planners with meeting preparation; and encourage business travelers and visitors alike to visit local historic, cultural and recreational sites.

“We’ve started to pursue it. Many destinations around the world have already done this, because marketing a destination can’t be at the expense of who’s in power. It can’t depend on the government and their whims,” Vega said.

Aside from being widely known as the “Island of Enchantment,” Puerto Rico has historically never had a distinctive brand. Slogans to identify the island change with every new administration, doing away with continuity and familiarity.

The idea behind branding Puerto Rico is to be able to promote the destination as a place for tourism, business and investments. Nation branding is an increasingly growing trend for countries around the world. Countries like the United States, Germany, France, Portugal, Estonia, and Poland have worked with experts to create a brand.

The PRHTA has hired an outside firm to conduct a study to learn whether the creation of a DMO is suitable for Puerto Rico. The study will analyze the various existing models to learn their functionality and to determine the possibility of introducing an existing one or working on a new one with the reviewed models, Vega said.

In 2006, the Economic Development and Commerce Department launched an effort to develop the island’s permanent brand, but the results have yet to be disclosed.

While Vega touted the efforts of the current Puerto Rico Tourism Co. leadership in promoting the island, he said much remains to be done to secure Puerto Rico’s identity abroad. In October, the agency unveiled its latest marketing strategy in the U.S., re-introducing the “Puerto Rico does it better” slogan launched when governor Luis Fortuño headed Tourism in the 1990s.

“If we don’t market our destination appropriately, then what we have is nothing,” Vega noted.

Destination Marketing Association International says DMOs are a valuable asset as they are a one-stop-shop for unbiased information about the destination for the visitor, the business traveler and the meeting planner.

In that sense, any future DMO would have to consider working jointly with the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, whose mission is to serve as a liaison between convention planners and the island, for major meeting events.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 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 segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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