The partnership between Puerto Rico destination marketing organization Discover Puerto Rico (DMO) and Brand USA to promote our island in Europe and Asia has great opportunities for success, appealing to our idiosyncrasy, regional specificity, and exceptional natural resources.
Both entities recently signed a cooperation agreement seeking greater coherence in the efforts to attract visitors from places such as Germany, Spain and Canada, as well as the Asian region, and specifically China, which is known to be the most important generator of tourists worldwide.
The fact that there are direct flights from Germany to San Juan all year round, as well as from Canada during the high season (December to March), is key to ensuring that potential visitors are not discouraged by trips with stopovers and long waits at airports. Moving forward in this line will require adjustments to work with these visitors who come from other places, with notions and expectations that are different from those of the American tourist.
Part of DMO's effort, as its directors have recently stressed, focuses on promoting Puerto Rico as a destination that offers much more than beaches, with cultural, gastronomic and ecotourism activities, among others. This initiative as well as the effort to market sites of interest in all towns -not just San Juan's landmarks and major cities, as has been the prevailing strategy for years- are wise moves.
There is, unquestionably, a wide space to grow; to develop strategies that place us on the map as a favorite destination, attracting not only Europeans but also Asian tourists, with emphasis on China, whose citizens are beginning to massively respond to the offers presented to them.
Although still, more than 90 percent of visitors to the island come from the mainland, the prosperity experienced by countries that did not use to provide significant numbers of travelers must also be considered. That situation has changed, and, for example, there is a large inflow of tourists from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe. For them, the next step to European resorts is a Caribbean vacation, and there is competition to attract the people that will visit the region in the coming years.
In addition to placing ourselves as a different destination, it is crucial to provide adequate transportation options and comply with safety and security standards. Nothing influences travelers preferences more than security standards in the area they want to visit.
It is also important that visitors are kindly assisted, particularly young tourists willing to explore mountain villages, their rivers, caves or coasts, including popular beaches such as Flamenco in Culebra, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, or the Balneario de Luquillo.
Meanwhile, it is necessary to act to overcome the current obstacles of an inefficient maritime service to the island municipalities, which harms the initiative to market Puerto Rico as a place of unlimited possibilities that can be visited under the same conditions both in the Isla Grande as in Vieques and Culebra.
We know that there are some things we cannot control, such as hurricanes, but we can prevent other uncomfortable situations that lead to cancellations. The DMO team is clearly working on the opportunity zones and their optimism, with a projection to double the tourism economy, which currently represents only 7 percent of the Gross National Product, is encouraging.
Perseverance is key in this process. The boom in cruise ship encourages other initiatives and helps to promote the island. But we must go further, and this new partnership between DMO and Brand USA can open ways to unexpected bonanza, as well as other innovation efforts just undertaken.