20 August 2007

Our New Tourism Agency

Based on My recent "new tourism slogan for Puerto Rico" post, I've pondered harder about what kind of tourism agency Puerto Rico really needs.

I'm obviously basing this on the premise that the current Tourism Company is doing a sub-par job. Let Me present some basis for that premise.

Thanks to friends Kevin Shockey and José Rodríguez, I discovered that the U.S. Virgin Islands handles their tourism efforts with $4 million, whereas Puerto Rico does it (better?) with $80 million. Ah, but Puerto Rico is bigger, you say. True, but theU.S. Virgin Islands is kicking Our (bigger) butt when it comes to how much money they generate per tourist.

For you see, even if it's government money, it must be weighed as an investment. The U.S. Virgin Islands attract more tourists per dollar and make more money per tourist than We do. Oh, and the USVI invest part of their tourism budget in paying police (better security) and solid waste management (keeping the beaches clean.)

So why are We getting Our clocks cleaned, when by most accounts, We should be the shining star of (this section of) the Caribbean?

Because Our Tourism Company is a bloated, headless coelacanth in a world of frickin' sharks with frickin' lasers on their heads.

Of the $80 million budget, some 70-75% goes to paying the salaries and benefits of the mindless drones who toil there. (That's actually lower than the 80+% average of other agencies. Woo-hoo!) That leaves about $20 million to invest in marketing Puerto Rico and improving local facilities. Should be enough to make an impact, but wait! We have no vision, no long-range plans and We hysterically embrace the folly of splitting Puerto Rico into smaller regions--smaller fish, so to speak--creating a bevy of areas that are each underfunded and thus forced to compete against the frickin' laser-wearing sharks.

We zig and zag like drunken fish hoping to secure some niche in the coral fields of travelers' minds. (I've gone way too far in My metaphors here...) Top-heavy with ignorance, subject to too many headless directives, blinded by "less is more" imagery while executing "less is less" activities and out of touch with the new realities of world travel, Puerto Rico needs a new tourism agency. So here's what it should be:

---Smaller: Yes, less can be more if, like a laser, We focus instead of dissipating. People the agency with 8-10 marketers, tech-savvy go-getters who understand that lasers are the present. (Work the metaphor, damn it.) Make technology your ally, not your wastebasket.

---Online: Forget traditional media: If you want more bang for your buck, head online. Several recent surveys have shown that 78% of all travelers use the Internet to research, plan and make arrangements for their trips. Why advertise in traditional media, where travelers at best average 26% of your audience, when you can advertise to travelers themselves?

---Information, not slogans: Nobody gives a rat's puckered ass if "Puerto Rico Does It Better," "Sideways" or "With a Frickin' Cherry On Top." What matters to travelers is what separates online from traditional media: Hard-core information. Check out any travel site and actually see your potential hotel room, or browse the forum to read what other people say about Cancun, Venice...or Puerto Rico. Notice how the phrases "Too expensive," "too dirty" and "too much hassle to go back again" appear in relation to Puerto Rico. One is too many; to see several is heart-breaking. And to know Our much-lauded craptacular Tourism Company isn't capable and won't do anything about that is mind-blowing.

---Measure daily, not yearly: Every day visitors come to Puerto Rico. Every day people pool their hard-earned money and make decisions about where to go to spend it. Every day people dream about their vacations, many of them dreaming about tropical sunny beaches and turquoise waters (which the Tourism Company might like to know: We have them.) Every day. So what is this foolhardy focus on yearly statistics, calculated a quarter or two after the fact? Yes, annual stats provide an average, but in the "Now-Me Now!" world We inhabit, every day is the standard of measurement, not every year or so.

---Understand that tourism is growth, not graft: (Pun definitely intended.) However, what I mean by "growth" is the natural extension of who and what We are whereas graft is trying to impose a costume or style that simply isn't Us. It's the fundamental difference between honesty and deceit, between integrity to Ourselves and self-debasement to please others. The first in each case is healthy and breeds respect; the second in each case breeds contempt. Asking Us to do the second alienates visitors. Doing the first opens Our arms to the world...and the world will respond in kind.

---Make the change now: Every day, We fall further behind. Every day. It's way past time to make every day count--in Our favor.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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