The Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association is moving forward with making the establishment of a destination management organization, or DMO, for Puerto Rico a reality, organization executives said Wednesday.
The DMO would be responsible for overseeing marketing efforts for the island under a single brand and as a unified front representing all of Puerto Rico’s tourism components, PRHTA President Clarisa Jiménez said during a meeting with members of the local media.
“This is the first time an organization has decided to pursue getting a DMO for Puerto Rico and we have the commitment to continue pushing for it,” said Jiménez.
As News is my Business reported in February, upon getting the mandate from its membership, the PRHTA began shaping a Puerto Rico DMO and is now confident it will be able to submit a proposal to the government sometime in the next two months, organization Chairman Ismael Vega said.
If the goal is accomplished, the private sector would take control of the island’s marketing duties, currently in the hands of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., which would still have participation, along with other government agencies, he said.
“We don’t have a brand, and this flip-flopping in terms of marketing is something we can no longer accept,” said Vega. “DMOs work in so many other destinations, and the finality is to remove politics from the island’s marketing efforts.”
A DMO is described as in “charge of 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.
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.
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.
“There is a true need to educate both the government and especially the people of Puerto Rico, who don’t understand what tourism really is and the potential it could represent for all of them,” she said. “They don’t see the relationship between quality of life and good tourism.”
Puerto Rico’s DMO would get its financing from the room tax that the government levies on hotels, a portion of which is earmarked for marketing campaigns through the Tourism Co. While neither executive could say how much that is, the amount likely hovers at around $20 million.
“Meeting the challenge”
Next month, the PRHTA will host its 25th annual convention, when it will offer a series of seminars focusing on the “Meet the Challenge” slogan.
Aside from the need for a DMO and a permanent brand, Jiménez and Vega said the “wish list” of improvements needed to jumpstart tourism include “better communication between the sector’s components and the government agencies in charge, we also need to have the problem of illegal slot machines solved and we need to have more access to flights and cruise ships.”
“The government is doing good things, and we value that, but they need to paint the complete picture of what’s truly happening, both good and bad,” Vega said.
The annual convention will take place Sept. 28-30 at the Conrad Condado Plaza in San Juan. The event brings together professionals in all sectors of the tourism industry, including hoteliers, casino personnel, culinary arts professionals, suppliers, students and government representatives, among others.
“We are very excited with the program of our 2011 Convention, as we’re offering industry professionals the best in seminars, exhibits, and guest service, culinary and bartending competitions,” said Jiménez.