Tourism industry targets political parties on DMO
The Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association (PRHTA) is taking its DMO crusade to a new level.
Having fallen short of its goal of enacting a law during the recently concluded legislative session, the organization will soon appeal to this year's gubernatorial candidates to elicit a firm commitment on their part to support the creation of a destination marketing organization for Puerto Rico if elected.
"We will evaluate their party platforms and public statements and will then speak to which proposal best fits the industry's reality and demands," said PRHTA Chairman Ismael Vega.
The group will also pay close attention when each candidate outlines his tourism vision and DMO position before the PRHTA's annual convention later this year.
Additional pressure may come from employees of the island's hotels, airlines, tourism-service providers, travel agencies and other PRHTA members mobilized in support of the DMO and other positions that "seek to strengthen the industry," Vega affirmed.
While disappointed by the failure to enact a DMO-enabling law this year, the PRHTA has no plans to take its foot off the pedal.
Association leaders have begun talks with government officials, led by Economic Development & Commerce Secretary José Pérez- Riera, on the details of the proposed legislation presented by the industry last year.
"The talks are going very well," Vega said. "The next stage is to go over the proposed law, line by line, and reach an agreement on all points so we can end up with a law that can be introduced by whomever wins in November, and enacted soon after taking office."
To substantiate its position on the new DMO, the PRHTA is relying on a recent review of the local industry, conducted by global tourism consulting firm InterVistas, which scoped 20 leading DMOs from around the world to draw lessons for Puerto Rico.
Chief among them is the imperative to create a statutory, or legislated, DMO that would operate independently of the government in place to ensure continuity of all external sales and marketing.
The study lists six models followed around the world that could presumably be implemented in Puerto Rico:
- The status quo
- The status quo with a DMO serving in an advisory role
- Delegating sales & marketing to a new visitors' bureau structured as a nonprofit organization
- Delegating sales & marketing to the existing Puerto Rico Convention Bureau
- Delegating the function to the PRHTA
- Creating a new statutory organization in charge of leisure and group travel.
The statutory model was the only one that scored "High" on the eight criteria used to evaluate all six models:
- Industry participation and support
- Public accountability
- Flexibility and responsiveness
- Funding certainty
- Value for money
- Focus on product development
- Ease of implementation
The study calls on the industry-government task force designing the DMO to "separate sales and marketing from product development and enforcement." The latter two functions would remain in the hands of the Tourism Co.
It also recommends integrating the sales and marketing for leisure, groups and conventions into a single, coordinated effort handled by the new statutory DMO. Today, promotion of conventions is done by the Convention Bureau for both the Convention Center and individual hotels, while leisure is promoted by the Tourism Co.
Sales and marketing should also be freed from all possible "political interference" that keeps tourism promoters and campaigns from being "dynamic, flexible and performance-oriented" and prevents the continuity that is essential for the delivery of "consistent messages and programs."
The study warns that the new DMO must have the full buy-in across the industry as well as the executive, legislative and municipal branches of government to ensure optimal results. That includes broad agreement on funding and board composition.
"These are the recommendations we used to write the law that we're now discussing with the government," Vega said. "So it is based on the best DMO practices from around the world. Puerto Rico deserves nothing less."
InterVistas operates seven offices in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and has been involved in some 2,000 projects across 70 countries.
Thumb Image: 4tourism.org site