Managing the press
Alma Pedrosa, chief financial officer of the newly created Discover Puerto Rico, openly acknowledges one of the organization’s first tasks will be to address a public image crisis.
Prior to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was coming to terms with an economic crisis surmounting to $73 billion in debt. The Zika scare did little to help the island’s cause.
The DMO surely won’t position the island as a sympathy case, but event professionals can’t help but notice Puerto Rico’s almost unfathomable string of bad luck.
“I believe it’s a moral imperative for our industry and those in it to recognize that Puerto Rico needs our assistance at this point,” says Deborah Sexton, former PCMA president, who delivered a keynote during an education session at the beautiful Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico during a FAM trip in April.
Sexton went as far to reference New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as a model of recovery. She recommended that Puerto Rico reach new relationships in the industry if it wants to see results in the long run. However, many will find that to be like comparing apples to oranges.
Brad Dean, who left the Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Chamber of Commerce to become CEO of the Discover Puerto Rico, acknowledges the discord between what people will find on the island versus what’s being displayed in the media.
“There are still some misconceptions,” says Dean, whose career began as an analyst for General Electric stationed in San Juan nearly 30 years ago. “As of today, 95 percent of the island’s power needs have been restored; 120 hotels are open; attractions have been reopened, etc. Not
all travelers have been made aware of that, and that’s where we come in
to help influence the narrative and make sure people have the most
To address this, Dean mentions there’s already an agenda in place. The battle must be fought from both ends. Not only is there an urgent need to address media outlets and spread the word that Puerto Rico is open for business, but there also needs to be an in-house effort to deliver an experience that will make a lasting impression on visitors of all kinds.