Discover Puerto Rico brings together industry leaders in a virtual panel

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Discover Puerto Rico brings together industry leaders in a virtual panel
Thu April 01, 2021

A group of tourism experts at a global level have analyzed the situation that the sector has experienced during the last year and discussed the recovery in the coming months

Discover Puerto Rico, the Island's Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), held a virtual panel on "Lessons in crisis and recovery" yesterday, March 31, with a local Puerto Rican journalist and television personality Armando Valdés Prieto , moderating the debate. The panel was comprised of key industry leaders, including Anne Madison, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategic Communications for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); Diana Plazas, CSMO Caribbean & Latin America at Marriott International; Don Welsh, President and CEO of Destinations International; and Manuel Laboy, Executive Director of COR3, Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience, who joined José M. Suárez,

From hurricanes to political unrest to earthquakes and more, the proven success of Discover Puerto Rico's strong recovery strategies, crisis preparedness planning, and overwhelming agility have paved the way for a successful recovery from adversity. These experiences and learnings applied within the organization inspired the panel to come together and reflect on the important tactics and progress made after one year of the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

"There is nothing more critical to learn from the challenges COVID-19 has presented to our industry and share them for the global travel and tourism community to collectively look to the future with conclusions that help lay the foundation for recovery," he said Brad Dean. , CEO of Discover Puerto Rico. "This incredible group of decorated professionals openly discussing their experiences was both inspiring and an essential reminder of what we have gained, and not just what we lost."

Key themes shared by panelists included the importance of crisis preparedness, with scenario planning a critical tactic implemented by CLIA, Marriott International, and Discover Puerto Rico. "Regardless of how up-to-date your crisis manual is, without scenario planning and post-crisis debriefing to improve and build on those learnings, you have nothing," said Anne Madison of CLIA. It was through a robust crisis preparedness strategy book that Discover Puerto Rico was also able to clearly identify next steps based on potential scenarios, with the respective team members understanding their roles, as explained by José M. Suárez de la BMD.

Transparency, constant communication, and agility were also top priorities during the pandemic, and something each panelist shared should remain in the future. "Communication, adaptability and response with real, relevant and timely information was the best we could do," said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International, whose organization held 64 webinars during the peak of the pandemic to deliver crucial information to the global industry. COR3's Manuel Laboy, who worked closely with stakeholders as a local government official, shared that maintaining constant communication with the local Puerto Rican business community was essential in balancing the health crisis with the economic impact of the pandemic.

Data and research equally remain at the center of the panelists' organizations as they look to the future. CLIA, for example, increased the frequency of sentiment tracking to better understand the resonance of the message, while economic data demonstrating the impact of the cruise was also used at key moments in time. It is through the data that Discover Puerto Rico is also forming appropriate marketing campaigns that take the destination into account, while targeting responsible travelers to continue protecting residents and visitors. Diana Plazas of Marriott International specifically highlighted the use of digital tools to collect research, including how the global hotel company is leveraging its mobile app to listen to guests. "This is here to stay," he said. 

While strategies and tactics implementation varied between speakers, general agreement on the future of the travel industry was clear, despite the uncertainty. "Traveling is part of human DNA ... nothing can replace the actual experience of traveling," said Don Welsh of Destinations International, who shared the idea that even amid the rise of the pandemic, many planned trips understood that they would be canceled. "Resilience has a new meaning after COVID-19," continued Manuel Laboy of COR3, "and it must also have a new purpose that connects with the visitor experience, and that is progress."


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