Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers talked with Milton Segarra,
executive director of Puerto Rico Tourism Co., about the incentives
put in place to stimulate travel to Puerto Rico in the post-Sept.
11 period. Her report follows:
uerto Rico is safe, secure,
close by, loaded with airlift and ripe with possibilities for
getaway weekends and stress-free winter breaks. That's the message
industry officials are pushing as Puerto Rico gears up for the high
season during a decidedly abnormal shoulder season.
A new $15 million image and ad campaign was launched in late
October, the first such campaign for Puerto Rico in three years.
Puerto Rico Tourism Co., which came up with the campaign and its
theme of "You're Not Dreaming, You're in Puerto Rico," also
introduced a redesigned Web site at www.gotopuertorico.com. The site replaced
The campaign and its components are designed to make
Puerto Rico an easier sell for agents and consumers, according to
Segarra. "The campaign theme plays on the destination's
possibilities for adventure tours and travel and cultural
experiences," he explained. "Our role since Sept. 11 has been to
assure that Puerto Rico maintains its exposure and presence in the
minds of agents and those they book."
As a response to the terrorist attacks and to provide agents
with a sales mechanism, tourism officials came up with a threefold
stimulus initiative. Prior to the launch of the ad and image
campaign was a short-term newspaper blitz in 15 key U.S. markets
that carried the message: "Puerto Rico, Open Arms. Puerto Rico,
We're right next door."
"Our purpose was to show the people of the U.S. that we were
with them," Segarra said. "This was not the time for an aggressive
campaign, but we wanted to send a message of empathy and sympathy.
We lost 800 Puerto Ricans at the World Trade Center."
Next came incentives for the island's tourism industry. These
included a 50% reduction in the airline jet fuel tax for a 90-day
period through Feb. 15 and reduced landing fees for commercial
Electricity bills for PRTC-certified hotels and paradors were
cut 20% through January, and a wage subsidy to prevent further
hotel industry layoffs was implemented. Segarra reported that the
tourism initiatives appear to be working: The booking pace is on
the rise, occupancies have increased and feedback from the stimulus
packages is positive.
How well tourism is faring will be seen in visitor figures and
hotel occupancies during the holidays and winter travel season.
Segarra said PRTC's Fly Free promotion, which offers 9,000 free
airline tickets to clients booking inclusive plans through
participating wholesalers, "will provide a good base for the winter
season and increase momentum to travel."
More than 50 hotels islandwide are participating in the
promotion, valid through Dec. 15. Two free roundtrip tickets on
American, ATA, Continental, Delta and Spirit Airlines are offered
with packages of five nights or more, booked through nine
wholesalers. Another incentive includes cash prizes for agents who
book Puerto Rico is Fun packages between Jan. 13 and Feb. 23 for
travel from Feb. 3 to April 15.
"PRTC is committed to action," Segarra said. "Our sales reps
have doubled the amount of calls in the last two months. "We're
doing road shows for retailers, presentations to wholesalers and
have stepped up our schedule of fam trips. We're not leaving a