10 March 2010

F___ The Tourism Company

Here's a way Our (non)governor Luis "The Larva" Fortuño can save about $175 million from what passes for a budget in his (non)administration: Fire the Tourism Company. (You thought it was some other verb with the letter "f," right? So did I. Still do.)

Fire them all. Close down the damn pigpen of corporate interests unrelated to true Puerto Rico tourism growth. Do. It. Now. Before We lose more than We can recover in a generation.

Think I exaggerate? A generation ago (circa 1990), We were the Number 1 Caribbean destination. We had slipped in Our lead, but We were Number 1. Guess where We are now? Not Number 1. And slipping year after year.

The Tourism Company is to marketing Puerto Rico what Genghis Khan was to the Church of Rome: a smelly scourge. The pigpen serves a master of rapine beast called the "Big Industry Airline Travel Corporate Hotels" cartel, better known as BIATCH. They call the shots and narrowly define tourism as "what's good for them" rather than "what's good for Puerto Rico." And so far, the twain seldom if ever meet.

What airline dominates air travel to Puerto Rico? American Airlines. What airline has the most former high-ranking employees now "serving" in the Tourism Company? Uh-huh. What percentage of the estimated $175 million budget goes to marketing Puerto Rico? About 13% if you round way up. How much goes to marketing Puerto Rico outside of the U.S. of part of A.? 11%, if you round up in a good year. That means that roughly 1.5% of the puny marketing budget of the BIATCH-led pigpen goes to advertise in markets other than that dominated by...American Airlines.

Is it any wonder that the Dominican Republic gets about 2.4 million tourists a year from Europe while We get about 200,000--basically those stranded at Our airport on the way to some other place?

How much of the BIATCH-pigpen "marketing" effort goes to the Internet? Guess. No, go ahead, guess. Yours is as good as Mine which is as good as "who the f--- knows?" Here's what We do know and can prove easily: Do a search as if you were traveling to Puerto Rico then rate the results as either positive or negative about Us. That's where the money should be spent, where roughly 61% of travelers are starting their travel plans. Then notice how many of the Puerto Rico sites are in a language other than English or Spanish...

The Tourism Company has had one brilliant idea in the past 20 years and because it happened on a holiday weekend, no one knew what it was. From changing slogans just to spend money ("Come to the Continent of Puerto Rico," "Puerto Rico Does It Better," "Puerto Rico U.S.A.," "Go Puerto Rico" and My suggested-but-never-used "Puerto Rico: Closed For Repairs") to subdividing the Island into "tourism regions" and then STILL spending money to push only the BIATCH-rich San Juan area, the Tourism Company is to Our beaches what an oil spill is: a noxious ugly stain.

So, fire 'em.

What do We replace them with? Why slap My buns and call Me Trixie, I got ideas:

--Create a contest and pick the 10 best website designs and campaigns to promote Puerto Rico.

--Hire 10 local ad agencies and have them compete for tourism marketing contracts ranging from one to 3 years in duration. Cap the maximum contract at $3 million and all the others maxing out at $1 million.

--Spread funds to the regional areas such as Porta del Sol (west coast) and Porta Caribe (south coast) so they can implement their own marketing campaigns. Give the small hotel associations their own funding for marketing.

--Create a "Tourism Evaluation System" database that not only targets visitors to Puerto Rico for their opinions, but also monitors what's being said about Our tourism components on the Web. Use that to improve the overall quality of experience amongst the related companies (hotels, airlines, transportation, restaurants, shops, etc.)

--Partner with the Dominican Republic to offer 2-for-1 deals--2 Islands for the Price of 1. Yes, they have lower labor costs and more hotel rooms, but if We focus on what We have instead of what they have, We can find a solid market that benefits both countries. First step: We need to lose the attitude that they are "beneath" Us. My Brethren know exactly what I mean.

--Create Our own airline, by either buying into someone other than American Airlines and its prima puta attitude or partnering routes with other airlines. As for the other way to bring people here, lower the damn port fees for cruise ships and add companies capable of providing "4 Hour Experiences" to cruise ship passengers. Unless We offer them Our unique attractions in user-friendly ways, We'll never get them off the damn boats to spend more money here. (Yes, I called them "boats.")

I've got more ideas, but so do you if you set your mind to it. Making Our tourism better is one of the few industries We have near-total control over, thus it is a powerful tool in Our arsenal of economic growth. We need to improve it by making it Our own tool again, wresting it from the hands of a greedy BIATCH who for all intents and purposes hates Us.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


Unknown said...

We're doing our part (on our own dime) to help over at PuertoRicoDayTrips.com.

Beato said...

Actually don't just blame the Tourism Company. Why tourists are leaving for other destinations? Cost. Do you think Dominican employees get paid at least minimum wage? have employee benefits? union work? Yet they work happily and don't bitch about it. Because they know this insures future returns.
Ask yourself why our union employees spend their vacations in Punta Cana rather than let's say Isla Verde.
We did this ourselves, The Tourism Company was just the catalytic.

GCSchmidt said...

Ray, I've used the website you mention as starting points for short trips around the Island, so I commend you for mentioning the site. It is a useful and impressive offering.

Beato, I agree with all your points. I'm stressing here the need to get these corporate shills off the public payroll and start doing more "personal" marketing for Puerto Rico, as somewhat delineated in My other tourism-related posts.

The Insider said...

It's too bad that a "Tourism Evaluation System" is actually needed in this case. You would think... at least one of those snappy MBAs would be able to spot the key issues. =)

It definitely seems to be failed marketing at both the advertising and product levels.

They don't get enough people to come, but those who do have a great probability of being disappointed with various satisfaction criteria.

$175 million. Wow. I may be over confident here, but give me 20 hand picked individuals and some office space and I could put a nice up-tick on the tourism revenues just from sitting in front of a keyboard. I'll do it for $75 million. ;)

ElTank said...

Heck I'll do it for $2 Million.

Unknown said...

Hi Gil:
I commend you for your post, particularly because discussions like this are much needed in PR. However, I wanted to ask you, if you would not mind providing, what are your sources? Where are you gathering your information from? I'd love to know. Thanks.

GCSchmidt said...

Thanks for asking. The total Tourism money figure is from the government's own statistics on employment and the Budgets for FY 2009 and 2010 involving agencies that "support" the Tourism Company, namely the Rums of Puerto Rico and Convention Center. Why did I lump them with Tourism? Because the persons I spoke to pointed out the link. The marketing figure comes partially from Tourism press releases and was adjusted by My conversation with Tourism Company employees.

These people--who asked I not mention their names--have worked in the Tourism Company for many years. They all know Me from the mid-1990s when I did consulting work for tourism-related companies and they know I am The Jenius. In fact, that's why they had a few cups of coffee with Me. They gave Me a lengthy description of what's going on in this agency as far as who runs what, where they're from, why they do what they do and how they keep making obvious mistakes. I took their input, checked as many facts as I could (the conversation was in January 2010 and I like to work fast) and then rendered it all from My own perspective, careful to avoid pointing an inadvertent finger at My "sources."

As for the Internet side of the story, I used Google to compile overall tourism-related Web use, zeroed in on the overall U.S and European market and then did My own "vacation planning" aimed at "going" to Puerto Rico. What I wrote was a synthesis of what I found from over a dozen sources, with some websites listed below. Notice their percentages of Web use for travel are higher than My estimated 61%; I factored in that many travelers here have relatives and don't really need to "explore" on the Web beyond maybe checking airfares.

The historical data (We're #2! Or #3!) comes from several sources, but even Our government has acknowledged We are no longer "King of the Caribbean." Nice of them to do so, as they "unhelped" Us for so long.

The rest of the post is My own opinion, but the BIATCH is real, not conspiracy theory paranoia. Porta del Sur and Porta Caribe are the ugly, misshapen stepmonkeys of the Tourism Company and a bad idea to boot. Our overall appeal to the U.S. market We slobber for has definitely dropped and We don't think of any other countries in Europe except Spain. Did you know there are over 94,000 Japanese golfers who pay thousands of dollars--some as much as $100,000 a year--to merely KEEP their names on golf club/course waiting lists? Could We market something to them? I know! But are We doing anything about it? Of course not, because We think: "They speak Japanese. They are scary."

The only scary thing about all this is that We are facing a juggernaut in Cuba that will become--by 2012, I bet--THE big destination for U.S. travelers to the Caribbean and We will be chanting sadly "We're #4! Or #5!"




Unknown said...

Hi Gil:

Thanks much for your prompt response. I agree. Puerto Rico is not prepared at all for what will be their (our) biggest rival, in terms of tourism (and perhaps even other service industries). Particularly if Cuba, which is visually stunning, adopts a strategy of tourism as growth (instead of graft, to refer to your 07 post)PR's current circensian spectacle will not provide enough to level it.