Puerto Rico’s inclusion in MasterCard’s “Priceless Cities” program has resulted in higher-than-expected levels of success during its first year and is now being set up for an expansion beyond the San Juan metropolitan area into other towns with brisk tourism activity.
Manuel Catedral, general manager for the credit card company in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, said Wednesday that in the first year, the number of participating establishments grew from 45 to 78, reflecting a 40 percent growth in businesses that signed up to the marketing program that rewards cardholders with exclusive offers, discounts on products and services and participation in exclusive events.
“The loyalty from the first businesses that signed up has remained strong and we now have a waiting list of businesses in different categories that want to join the program,” Catedral said. “But we’re being quite selective because we want them to be in the industries we have identified as being a good fit for the program: gastronomy, travel, entertainment, sports, shopping and music.”
During a meeting with reporters, Catedral offered more results, saying participating businesses generated more than $15 million in sales through the program, representing a 12 percent increase from the same period the previous year.
Furthermore, participating businesses rang up more than 120,000 transactions during the last year, which also represented a 12 percent year-over-year increase in activity.
“We concentrated on the Old San Juan area last year, because of the cruise ship traffic. We wanted to create loyalty from tourists arriving to the island as well as from locals who are seeing the offers that are available and want to take advantage of them,” he said.
As part of the marketing effort, MasterCard joined forces with the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association and the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, which have helped spread the word about the opportunities available through the program.
“From day one, we wanted to be part of the ‘Priceless Cities’ program because we believed that it would help position Puerto Rico as a first-rate destination,” said Clarisa Jiménez, president of the PRHTA. “We wanted to target that visitor with a higher purchasing level. That tourist who used to frequent Puerto Rico in years past and spent money here, moved the economy.”
“Through the ‘Priceless Cities’ program we’re achieving that because it’s providing them with unique experiences,” she added.
Given the positive experience achieved so far, Jiménez said the PRHTA is proposing the inclusion of businesses in other geographic areas where tourism activity is high, such as the northeastern part of the island and the Porta del Sol region, which encompasses at least a dozen towns along the island’s western flank.
“In general, there’s a lot of potential in those areas, and we haven’t even begun to talk about Vieques and Culebra, two islands where the ‘Priceless’ platform would be a perfect fit because of the quality of visitors that are arriving there and the quality hotels available,” she said.Clarisa Jiménez, president of the PRHTA
Migrating from cash to e-payments
Puerto Rico was the first destination in the Caribbean to be included in the “Priceless” initiative, joining Paris, London, New York and Miami. Most recently, the marketing program was extended to Punta Cana and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, as well as the Bahamas.
Among other benefits, the program offers MasterCard cardholders discounts ranging from 20 percent to 25 percent, and special offers at all participating businesses, including upscale restaurants, retailers and unique locations.
During its second year, Catedral said the goal is to continue expanding the program’s scope, so that it can reflect growth of between 40 percent and 60 percent.
“But really, the sky’s the limit with this, because there is still a lot of opportunity in the region to generate more electronic transactions, as more than 85 percent of all transactions are currently done in cash. We want to continue promoting a shift from cash to cards, and the ‘Priceless’ program can help us achieve that,” Catedral said.
While MasterCard does not break down its results by specific markets, during the second quarter of this year, the Latin American region generated $71 billion in revenue, representing 7.9 percent of the company’s global results. Of that amount, $972 million were attributed to retail purchases.