As COVID-19 began spreading across the globe earlier this year, we watched cities, states, and countries go into various forms of lockdown. Marketers, across myriad industries, were left wondering, “What do we do now, and how do we do it right?” And those in the travel and hospitality industry were some of the first marketers who had to begin figuring things out immediately.
Crisis management plans needed to be put into place. Some tourism marketing campaigns had to be halted immediately, whereas other campaigns that had seen countless hours of effort had to be shelved. Appropriate messaging — both internally and externally — had to be drafted, reviewed, and shared. But as we know, you can’t just hold your breath forever as you wait to see what comes next.
In mid-April, Discover Puerto Rico, the destination marketing organization (DMO) for the Island, launched a new campaign, positioning Puerto Rico as the place travelers will want to put at the top of their list once it’s safe to travel again. The campaign, “All in Good Time,” has a simple, yet clear, message: “Right now, it’s time for patience, but soon enough it will be time for paradise — all in good time.”
We had the opportunity to chat with Leah Chandler, CMO of Discover Puerto Rico, about the campaign, as well as how her organization — and the Island’s travel and hospitality industry as a whole — is handling the pandemic.
Where did the inspiration for the “All in Good Time” campaign come from, and why now?
Leah Chandler: Although social distancing is keeping us from traveling — it is, by no means, prohibiting us from keeping Puerto Rico in the hearts and minds of future travelers, responsibly. We wanted to share the beauty and serenity of the Island with those daydreaming about future travels, and our Discover Puerto Rico creative team has captured incredible content, which fits beautifully into this concept, developed by our creative agency, R&R Partners.
We launched a variety of initiatives in advance of the campaign itself that similarly offer the best of Puerto Rico, to be enjoyed from the comfort of your home. This includes virtual vacations on Instagram Live, Facebook Live, and Zoom, which provide everything from a rainforest tour of El Yunque, to a salsa dancing class.
They began in March and are being extended through May. We also offer Puerto Rico-themed Zoom backgrounds, virtual puzzles, museum tours, traditional recipes to enjoy at home, and serene “Sounds of Puerto Rico” video collections on YouTube, that can be used to meditate or simply take a pause during this time.
The campaign features six videos, all available on YouTube. Will they be featured elsewhere, and are they a part of a larger omnichannel campaign?
LC: In addition to YouTube, the “All in Good Time” campaign is running across our various social channels, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, until travel restrictions on the island loosen, at which point messaging will shift from “All in Good Time” to “It’s Time for Puerto Rico.” We’ll carefully evaluate before this shift is made to ensure we market the Island responsibly.
What are some goals of the “All in Good Time” marketing campaign?
LC: We want to keep Puerto Rico in the hearts and minds of travelers — particularly the nature offerings available on the Island. As travel around the world resumes, consumers will seek destinations where they can experience open spaces, natural beauty, and unique settings that will make them feel a world away.
Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and doesn’t require a passport, our island is an exceptional choice for accessible travel, that truly delivers an exotic experience. They may not be able to travel right now, but when the time is right, we want them to choose Puerto Rico.
There are also other videos on the Discover Puerto Rico YouTube channel that were posted around the same time as the “All in Good Time” videos … do these connect with/work with the campaign?
LC: All the content you see recently launched on our YouTube channel is interconnected in that it was created to bring the Puerto Rican spirit into people’s homes, by highlighting offerings on the Island that are inherently Puerto Rican. This includes our “Sounds of Puerto Rico” soundscape: videos that allow one to escape to the sounds of waves crashing and our iconic “coqui” frogs. [This content is] in addition to the virtual vacations, which have covered a variety of engaging topics — all tied to the very best that the Island offers: nature, culture, and cuisine.
Can you talk about how COVID-19 has affected tourism numbers for the Island?
LC: Tourism accounts for roughly 6.5% of the Island’s GDP and impacts nearly 80,000 jobs. As expected, with the drop in demand, the travel industry is feeling the effects of COVID-19 on a global scale. However, each segment is different. For example, we’re seeing group travel — in particular — be rescheduled as opposed to cancelled completely, with October as the timeframe when a variety of groups are coming back to the Island.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about how Discover Puerto Rico is managing tourism marketing and responding to COVID-19?
LC: It’s important to note that as soon as the virus began to escalate, the Puerto Rican government put in place an Island-wide issues management plan, exercising an abundance of caution to avoid mass spread throughout the Island. The Island was a trailblazer in many regards, as the first U.S. territory or state to implement a curfew. The government unveiled a record $787 million package to fight COVID-19, bigger than any announced by the U.S., at the time, in addition to the $160 million from the Emergency Reserve Fund already authorized.
Additionally, the San Juan International Airport became the first airport in the U.S. to implement a system which utilizes thermographic cameras to take temperatures of all inbound passengers, making the screening process more efficient and reliable.
Necessary precautions are being taken to keep residents and visitors safe, and we at Discover Puerto Rico are finding unique ways to engage with a variety of segments. Future travelers can enjoy the content and virtual offerings developed with them in mind, while we engage our local businesses and support broader local stakeholders, as well as the travel planner community.
For industry partners, Discover Puerto Rico is offering a video training series, the first of its kind, which consists of 10-minute training sessions that will help enhance knowledge and skillsets for marketing and sales, while providing recommendations on how to engage with audiences during this unprecedented crisis.
Our team has also recently partnered with the beloved local San Juan coffee shop, Cuatro Sombras, to send authentic coffee shipments to some of our meeting planner friends as a kind gesture, and to encourage a well-deserved “coffee break.” This, in addition to our travel agent program, which offers the opportunity to become a PRTE (Puerto Rico Travel Expert) through the PRTE certification.
We’re committed to engaging future travelers, as well as our valued partners, in unique ways as we together navigate our current reality and “new normal.”