Puerto Rico’s DMO filling its top executive positions
Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the March 22-28 print edition of Caribbean Business.
SAN JUAN — As its July 1 deadline approaches, Puerto Rico’s destination marketing organization (DMO) is focusing on filling its top executive positions, starting with the appointment of Brad Dean as CEO for the Corporation for Promotion of Puerto Rico as a Destination, as the DMO is formally known.
Despite allegations and concerns that surfaced with Dean’s announcement to head the DMO, members of its board stand by his credentials, references and the organization’s selection process.
His selection through the headhunting firm SearchWide also includes finding the marketing organization’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Sales Officer (CSO), while the search for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is being conducted internally, explained Tomás Ramírez, DMO board member and president of the Asociación de Dueños de Paradores de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Parador Owners Association).
As for Dean’s selection, it was his connection to Puerto Rico—as his wife is Puerto Rican and he has worked on the island before—and because of the “many things we want to implement toward the future that he has implemented for Myrtle Beach, [S.C.,]” Ramírez said.
Prior to accepting the position to head the island’s DMO, Dean was the CEO of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, also known as the Grand Strand Chamber of Commerce. This organization, which receives 30 percent of the accommodation and hospitality tax and a 1 percent sales tax, oversees out-of-the-area marketing for this South Carolina region, explained Marilyn Hatley, mayor of North Myrtle Beach.
Hatley explained that Dean’s tenure with the Grand Strand Chamber of Commerce has yielded positive results as a large portion of the state’s tourism income comes from Myrtle Beach.
Some of the strategies the DMO board expects Dean will bring from his experience in South Carolina include establishing a sponsorship system, a bigger digital presence in the marketing strategy and looking for additional funding for the DMO.
When allegations were raised in Myrtle Beach news reports that Dean had been involved in a questionable pay-for-play action to get the 1 percent sales tax approved, Ramírez stated they confirmed the references and found no basis for the claims. Furthermore, Ramírez indicated that prior to being presented to the Puerto Rico DMO board, SearchWide completed an extensive background check.
The North Myrtle Beach mayor also dismissed the allegations and argued that the story was fueled by people resisting change. The reality, however, was that Dean was promoting the sales tax to grow the area’s tourism. Hatley, who had nothing but praise for the CEO, said: “Puerto Rico has a gem in Mr. Brad Dean.”
One of the benefits that Hatley mentioned about Dean is that he is going to establish realistic goals tailor-made for the region’s necessities.
“Brad Dean looks at the area and sees what is needed, whether it is jobs, health facilities, cultural facilities, and then he builds the economy around those things,” Hatley said. She went on to state that Dean has been very successful in establishing collaborations between the private and public sectors.
To be selected for the position as CEO of the Puerto Rico DMO, Dean went through a process that included 200 candidates from Puerto Rico and abroad. The second round narrowed that figure down to 50 candidates but only three were able to pass to the interview round, Ramírez explained.