Puerto Rico’s marketing organization establishing analytics-based strategy
Discover Puerto Rico intends to bank on growing tourism trend
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s destination marketing organization (DMO), Discover Puerto Rico, is honing its strategy and intends to achieve certain economic objectives by basing decisions on analysis provided by the founder and president of Tourism Economics, Adam Sacks, as well as analysis of data the organization has already compiled, Discover Puerto Rico CEO Brad Dean said.
“We also talked early on about the importance of research and investing in research. I know we’ve had people wondering why so much and why it takes so long, but the research doesn’t happen at all once. One project leads to another project; one project answers a series of questions and that raises another series of questions, so that research has taken place over a period of months,” Dean said.
The Discover CEO said Sacks “is helping us look backwards at where we’ve been and where we are starting,” and that the DMO’s Alisha Valentine, director of research and analytics, “tells us how we are performing now.”
Sacks and Valentine presented a positive outlook on the island’s tourism industry, although growth might not be in the traditional sectors. For example, Valentine explained that while hotel occupancy might be lower than what hoteliers would like, the exponential growth of independent rentals via lodging services such as Airbnb and HomeAway point to the growth of a different type of visitor profile.
“There has been a nearly 900 percent increase in available independent rentals in the last year and the demand has increased faster than the supply. When we take a look at the combined hotel and independent rental occupancy, we’re actually just off our best year in the last five years,” Valentine said. She later added that the potential of “independent rental being able to attract a different kind of visitor, that some visitors are actually looking for that type of experience that the independent rental can offer,” is being studied closely. “So seeing this type of growth can’t be underestimated as we are thinking about the industry.”
For his part, Sacks explained that based on previous trends, according to local tourism industry-related economic data he compiled going back to 2012, his assessment is Puerto Rico has been showing a post-disaster recovery rate, referring to the back-to-back major hurricanes that struck in 2017, that is faster than other places that have experienced a similar degree of devastation.
Before Hurricane Maria, Sacks said, Puerto Rico had experienced consistent growth; however, 2017 saw a 15 percent drop in visitor spending from the $6.5 billion recorded for 2016, a decline that continued into the early months of 2018, when they began reflecting a growth trend to this day.
Given that year-long pattern, Dean is optimistic that the tourism sector can grow into the double digits in terms of percentage of Puerto Rico’s GDP, with Sacks concurring that Puerto Rico has room and the opportunity to grow.
As for the full economic report, Valentine said it will first be shared with industry stakeholders and eventually made public.