First complete study of arriving visitors yields hopeful signs for island tourism
By The Star Staff
Discover Puerto Rico on Thursday published the details of the first complete study on visitors arriving in Puerto Rico, a task that lasted one year and included interviews conducted at different points on the island with 1,607 travelers of legal age from abroad.
Discover Puerto Rico also announced that it entered into a collaborative agreement with Ana G. Méndez University (UAGM) for cooperation in the training of students, the scheduling of educational events and the promotion of research on tourism, with initiatives such as the exchange of information or studies such as the visitor’s profile revealed Thursday.
One of the main findings of the study for 2022 is that 98% of those surveyed were satisfied with their experience on the island. Similarly, 95% said that they will return in the future while less than 15% experienced concerns with the destination.
“With such high satisfaction and desire to return among the visitors, this group of travelers offers an important opportunity for the island,” said Erin Francis Cummings, CEO of Destination Analysts, the firm that conducted the study along with Gaither International. “They are the easy fruit to pick, with a certainly higher chance of conversion. In 2022, only 49% of leisure visitors to Puerto Rico were repeat visitors. At a time of economic anxiety or uncertainty, this group is an opportunity for Puerto Rico to maintain visits in the short term.”
Her statements were made during a Discover Puerto Rico event held at the Carolina Campus of the University of Puerto Rico.
The main reason for the trips taken by those surveyed was vacation (65%). Only 13% said that their trip was to visit relatives. Travelers selected Puerto Rico as a destination for its climate (34%), its scenic beauty (32%), and local culture (31%).
On average, travelers stayed on the island for 6.1 nights. About half stayed overnight in a hotel (45%), a third in short-term rentals (34%), and the rest in private residences. It is estimated that each visitor spent around $208 per day. Those expenses include lodging, food, entertainment, experiences such as guided excursions and general purchases.
In terms of sociodemographic characteristics, the visitors were, on average, 46 years old, the majority were women (58%), the predominant marital status was married (60%), and the average family income was around $135,000 per year. A third of the travelers came from homes with children.
Sixty-four percent identified as White or Caucasian, 64% and 13% as Black or African American, and 24% as Hispanic or Latino. A similar percentage (23%) said they were of Puerto Rican descent and 8% affirmed their identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
This overview shows the composition of travelers in the best year in the history of the island tourism industry in terms of visitor spending ($5.7 billion), accommodation rental tax collections ($116 million), and jobs in the tourism sectors, recreation and lodgings (91,500). Likewise, 2022 had the highest passenger traffic at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (over 10 million) in more than a decade and was the year in which Discover Puerto Rico’s Live Boricua (Vive Boricua) promotional campaign launched.
In fact, the promotional efforts of Discover Puerto Rico show progress in the familiarity of travelers with Puerto Rico as a tourist destination, in the positive perception of the island and the probability of visiting, officials said. Both the probability of a visit and the positive perception of Puerto Rico increased five percentage points from 2021, according to data from the Strategic Marketing & Research firm.
“The advance has been made because Discover Puerto Rico was able to add a significant amount of economic resources with the allocations we received from federal funds (ARPA, CARES and CDBG-DR)” said Alisha Valentine, director of research and analysis at Discover Puerto Rico. “In 2022, we managed to reach over 33 million homes with the Live Boricua campaign and over 32% of our visitors know about or have been positively impacted by our promotional efforts.”