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Discover Puerto Rico invites visitors to ‘Live Boricua’


Tourists are indeed in love with Puerto Rico: in its latest August report, Discover Puerto Rico announced that in the first seven months of this year accommodations generated $1 billion in revenue, three months earlier than in 2021.

The campaign focuses on helping tourists to learn and embrace the culture and amenities of Puerto Rico


By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar

Special to The Star

alejandra.jover@gmail.com


What does “boricua” mean? It’s not only a person of Puerto Rican birth or descent but a way of living, according to the Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination marketing organization (DMO).


It comes from “Borinquen,” native Taínos’ name for the island.


“Live Boricua” heralds the intimacy of local cuisine, culture and eternal summer days and nights in Puerto Rico. That’s the promise Discover Puerto Rico gives prospective leisure travel tourists, event planners and company retreats: come to Puerto Rico and live like a boricua during their stay.


And tourists are indeed in love with Puerto Rico: during its latest August report, Discover Puerto Rico announced that, in the first seven months of 2022, accommodations revenue generated $1 billion, three months earlier than in 2021, a year that ended with about $1.3 billion. That record reflected a growth of 37% compared to 2019, according to combined data from firms STR and AirDNA provided by the DMO in a press release.


“Despite the industry concerns, we’ve seen increased demand for lodging over last year’s record-setting pace,” said Alisha Valentine, director of research and analytics at Discover Puerto Rico, during a webinar presentation on the latest industry developments. “Through the end of July, total lodging demand was 18% higher than a year ago, with hotels booking 17% more business and rentals 20% more.”


What’s more remarkable is that even though the average tourist doesn’t think that right now it’s a good time to travel due to inflation and high fuel prices (rising costs for airline travel), Puerto Rico is still a hotspot compared to other United States destinations.


“The outlook for tourism is a mixed bag of positives and negatives, creating a lot of uncertainty for many in our industry,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico. “Demand for travel remains high, yet concerns about inflation and the economy are creating a lot of uncertainty for businesses and travelers alike. In our local tourism industry, employment is at its highest level. However, most businesses are still understaffed and eagerly seeking to hire more people.”


The island saw an increase in lodging supply, estimated at 15.5% for the first six months of the year compared to 2021. For the remaining two quarters of 2022, reservations are expected to be above pre-pandemic levels, with the fourth quarter being the most promising: Discover Puerto Rico expects bookings to be 6% higher than in 2021 in the case of hotels and 12% higher in the short-term rentals, ahead of 2019’s pace.


It’s worth mentioning that the hospitality sector is the fifth-largest employer in Puerto Rico, generating 6,400 more jobs than in 2019. In a written interview with the STAR, Discover Puerto Rico’s chief strategy officer, Edward Zayas, said that “as of June of this year, the recreation and lodging sectors employed 86,700 people according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”


Puerto Rico is a prime tourist destination because “in surveys of visitors to Puerto Rico, travelers identify Puerto Rico as a destination that evokes happiness, satisfaction and relaxation,” Zayas pointed out.


“Among the reasons visitors cite for visiting Puerto Rico are seeing family and friends (36%), the weather (31%) and the local culture (29%),” he noted. “Travelers’ favorite activities are restaurants, bars and pubs (70%), beaches (70%), shopping (54%), water activities (39%), hiking (33%), and outdoor recreation (32%).”


To ensure that tourists come to the island even in the middle of the worst recession in 40 years, “we try to be agile in adjusting our promotional strategies to industry developments,” Zayas said.


“Puerto Rico’s tourism industry has led the industry’s recovery nationwide. It is in an excellent position to face the challenges that the times present,” he noted. “Our campaigns seek to maintain high demand for our destination by making data-driven marketing decisions. That same high demand allows the industry to receive good economic benefits for its services.”


The chief strategy officer said that by 2026, “traveler expenditures could reach between $5.871 and $6.871 billion, not including what domestic tourism could inject into the industry.”


‘Live Boricua’ leads a strong campaign


Only 12% of visitors identified their trip’s primary purpose as visiting friends and relatives. Still, according to the DMO’s webinar, it’s the highest motivator. Also, nearly a third of Puerto Rico’s visitors come from the diaspora (Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S.), and local culture is a significant motivator for travel. These markers make the “Live Boricua” campaign all the more valuable.


The MICE niche (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) is the main one the campaign aims to please. Distrito T-Mobile is one of the flagstaffs of “Live Boricua,” giving business travelers a reason to hold their events in Puerto Rico.


With slogans such as “Make your Event Boricua,” Discover Puerto Rico is betting on the island’s culture to attract corporate visitors through trade shows, events, and roadshows. Travelers can enjoy various festivals and activities, such as rum tastings, bomba and plena dance classes, and sight-seeing trips down historic sites on an island known for its lush flora, beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. Other attractive offers include sports events and venues where international games can be contested, including sports arenas, renowned surf spots and golf courses.


To spearhead the campaign’s efforts, the DMO will place signage and banners in terminals A, B, and C at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Isla Verde to welcome visitors and invite them to take pictures to post on social media channels. Upcoming media campaigns on national cable TV also spotlight Puerto Rico as a destination and offer attractions such as wedding-themed media events, a branded bar bike (which serves local beer), and mixology and culinary experiences.

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