Travel2020: Puerto Rico welcomes rising wave of tourism 2 years after Hurricane Maria
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Puerto Rico is on the rebound. Discover Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico's first-ever Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), recently announced that 2019 Q1 lodging demand is now on par with 2017 Q1 levels just 14 months after Hurricane Maria, signaling an unprecedented pace of recovery for a destination.
Total demand for independent rentals is up 72% from 2017 Q1 levels, underscoring a large growth in visitors. The forecast for the rest of the year looks promising as the remainder of 2019 is booking 24.1% higher than 2018 levels. This is expected to continue to rise as the average booking-to-arrival window is approximately 2.5 months.
Since its inception in July 2018, Discover Puerto Rico has embarked on a mission to solidify Puerto Rico's brand equity and accelerate its visitor economy, empowering the island to fully capitalize on its rich tourism product and thrive as a leading Caribbean destination.
Discover Puerto Rico set a short-term goal to drive a record pace for recovery and reach pre-Maria levels by the hurricane's two-year anniversary. Based on the 2019 Q1 results, Discover Puerto Rico has achieved this goal much sooner than anticipated, proving itself as one of the island's first successes of privatization.
"We learned a great deal from our tourism counterparts in other destinations who have faced adversity, and that helped focus our efforts. We gleaned insights and historical data related to perception, and closely observed how media handled recovery coverage. We optimized our plans to ensure strong results," said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
"The DMO was established to put the destination and economy first by ensuring consistency and best-in-class marketing strategies to increase business and leisure visitation. This is an exciting time for Puerto Rico's visitor economy, and it's rewarding to see early success. However, this is just the first step — our ultimate objective is to put the transformative power of travel to work in Puerto Rico by doubling the size of the visitor economy, benefiting the Island's residents and businesses," he added.
Puerto Rico's tourism industry has made great strides in record time. Additional milestones include:
- 2019 Q1 leads and bookings in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) space far surpass past three-year and five-year averages. Meeting planners are finding Puerto Rico a top choice given its ease of doing business as a U.S. territory and allure of a Caribbean destination.
- Air access has been growing at all airports. San Juan International airport (SJU) saw a 23.8% year-over-year increase in air traffic in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first three months of 2018. This is a strong sign of growth, as more carriers expand capacity and add new routes.
- Puerto Rico's cruise industry has broken records. January 2019 numbers reflect an increase from previous years of 28.9% of visitors to the port and there has been a 56.6% increase in homeport cruise passengers compared to January 2018.
- There are approximately 156 hotels accepting reservations. Short-term rentals provide travelers more than 8,000 options across the entire island and the sister islands of Vieques and Culebra.
Image: Discover Puerto Rico/Condado Vanderbilt Hotel
Spring break search traffic across all 50 states and saw a 115% increase in search activity over 2018. The favorite keyword in 30 out of 50 states was San Juan. Expedia Group's most recent data reports that demand increased by 440% and 40%, respectively, in Q4 2018 as compared to the same period in 2017.
In July 2018, Discover Puerto Rico quickly embarked on a brand repositioning process to ensure an immediate impact on the visitor economy. As the organization approached the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, its #CoverTheProgress campaign challenged media to focus on the positive progress of the tourism industry.
A bold move not previously taken by a destination that faced adversity, the campaign shifted the perception of Puerto Rico, placing the island in the consideration set of travelers and meeting planners. The organization also activated a Google Content Initiative, rapidly updating and improving visual assets available to travelers online.
Just this spring, Discover Puerto Rico launched a new brand identity, including a new logo and a revamped website, featuring dynamic content designed to engage visitors across all digital formats. And last week, the organization launched a new brand campaign called "Have We Met Yet?"
The new campaign re-introduces Puerto Rico to the world and draws inspiration from the Island's unique cultural and natural offerings — including its iconic doors, the hospitable and welcoming nature of its people, and its geographical position as a United States territory conveniently located to the south of the mainland.
The island was recently selected as the host destination for the upcoming World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) 2020 Global Summit.
"Puerto Rico is looking more and more like a historic comeback story, and I'm proud to see the Island's travel and tourism industry plays a starring role," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "Discover Puerto Rico has proven that a destination's marketing arm is an indispensable component of a successful turnaround."
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