Bienvenidos. Puerto Rico is a sun-kissed island small in size but big in heart. Known for its coffee culture, tropical rainforest, vibrant music, vibrant birds, and … well, vibrant everything — when Puerto Rico is nearby, you can feel it in your soul.
Discover Puerto Rico is a newer destination management organization (DMO), established in 2018. A data-first approach to its initiatives is what inspired the DMO to set a goal of understanding the LGBTQ+ traveler. Hosting three Pride festivals, something no other Caribbean island did, indicated that Puerto Rico already was perceived as an LGBTQ+ friendly destination compared with others in the region. So how to further capture and expand that market share?
We asked José Arana at Discover Puerto Rico how the DMO went about it.
Marketing & Special Events Manager, Discover Puerto Rico
In 2019, 19 percent of LGBTQ+ travelers identified Puerto Rico as an LGBTQ+ friendly destination. In 2020, that number increased to 41 percent. How did this come about, and what role has Discover Puerto Rico played?
Our mission, as a destination marketing organization, is to assure that the destination is inclusive and that our campaigns represent all travelers. According to J. Walter Thompson, 52 percent of millennials and gen-z report identities other than completely straight. An even higher percentage report having queer family members and friends. Using these insights, Discover Puerto Rico has completed specific LGBTQ+ photoshoots, collaborated with other LGBTQ+ focused organizations, held roundtables with the community, and is in the works of establishing a hospitality employment program blueprint for trans, queer, and non-binary presenting people.
Looking at the Discover Puerto Rico website, it’s clear that inclusive language and imagery are everywhere. What other best practices have you put into place to make the destination more welcoming?
We believe that one of the best ways to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion is to make sure that everyone is represented and can see themselves in the destination content that we share out digitally and in print. Other best practices include hiring LGBTQ+ tourism experts; we may have LGBTQ+ members on our team who are members of the community, but that’s not enough. Bringing in experts provides a more holistic approach to community engagement. Another important pillar is empowering local tourism partners to participate in the segment. While educating local partners on specific items that are key to the LGBTQ+ community, we are able to promote inclusivity on a local community level and prepare these partners to have meaningful interactions when they welcome LGBTQ+ guests to their businesses.
You partnered with HospitableMe, a company that studies the present situation in a destination and recommends changes to elevate LGBTQ+. Can you share what insights they provided about Puerto Rico from which you could build?
Partnering with HospitableMe provided Discover Puerto Rico an edge on LGBTQ+ tourism compared to other destinations. They initially made assessments internally within our organization and afterward across the Island to review how LGBTQ+ visitors were welcomed. Insights from these activities evolved to provide LGBTQ+ educational trainings across the Island for our tourism partners. They also connected us with the local LGBTQ+ community members and businesses that we were able to integrate into our efforts to promote LGBTQ+ friendly options to all our visitors and target markets.
What are the most meaningful changes you’ve implemented to help cement your place as the “LGBTQ+ Capital of the Caribbean”?
As the destination marketing organization for Puerto Rico, Discover Puerto Rico has been intentional in our efforts made to build and expand our reputation as the LGBTQ+ capital of the Caribbean. We have assisted our industry partners to understand the needs of the LGBTQ+ community and help them provide safe, respectful service. We have engaged the community in our planning and marketing processes. We have built a robust stock of editorial content that represents the full spectrum of the community — using LGBTQ+ talent in front of and behind the camera. We provide LGBTQ+ travelers the information and recommendations they need to plan safe, welcoming and amazing vacations, and we demonstrate allyship through ongoing education, community visibility, engagement, and partnerships.
What’s next for Discover Puerto Rico and the LGBTQ+ community/tourism? How do things look five years from now?
We are a research-based organization, and over the next couple of years at Discover Puerto Rico, we will be evolving our LGBTQ+ strategy based on the insights we receive from our soon–to-be-launched “Live Out!” campaign. As travel continues to evolve and more travelers become more conscientious and geared towards inclusivity and sustainability, our efforts will continue to align with and create the best practices that promote visitation in ways that engage and benefit all of the people of Puerto Rico.
For more information about how Discover Puerto Rico is approaching inclusivity in its destination, check out this recent Simpleview webinar, “Insider Tips: How DMOs weave inclusion into the community” with Leah Chandler, chief marketing officer at Discover Puerto Rico. Other panelists: Bennish Brown, president/CEO at Destination Augusta, and Alicia Calderon of Discover Peoria.