Skift Take

Humanizing local communities in popular global tourism destinations is still frighteningly not happening as it should, but Puerto Rico's new campaign shares local stories told about, and by, real individuals to portray a genuine picture of who they are.

Discover Puerto Rico leaned in heavily to the island’s local communities for its latest tourism campaign, announcing on Tuesday “Live Boricua,” aimed to encourage travelers to immerse themselves in the authentic Boricuan way of life.

Boricua is a word used to describe a person from Puerto Rico by birth or descent. The destination marketing organization says the campaign cost just $750,000 to produce.

“‘Live Boricua’ is a movement born out of Puerto Rico alongside Puerto Ricans to emphasize the state of mind, way of life, spirit, flavor, style, rhythm, and melody that can only be experienced on the Island,” said Leah Chandler, chief marketing officer of Discover Puerto Rico. “The use of the word ‘Boricua’ provides a point of differentiation that is uniquely Puerto Rican and creates appeal and a sense of intrigue about Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican people and the travel experience.”

Puerto Rico is following a growing trend by destinations to more fully engage local communities, which Skift identified as megatrend for 2022.

Developed with the help of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, “Live Boricua” is inherently Puerto Rican at its core. Every step, from idea to creation, was supported by local communities and creatives. 

During the beginning stages, the Discover Puerto Rico team tested various creative concepts in focus groups across mainland U.S. and in San Juan to get insight from would-be travelers and Puerto Ricans themselves. Many moments in “Live Boricua” were actually inspired by locals, as Discover Puerto Rico had invited Puerto Rican influencers and tourism and hospitality industry partners to a pre-production roundtable to share thoughts on what they felt “Live Boricua” truly meant.

“It was critical that the ‘Live Boricua’ campaign was inspired by and supported by locals, local influential tastemakers, and the Diaspora community given the innate nature of the phrase,” said Chandler. “It’s not just about what Puerto Rico has to offer, but about who Puerto Rico is. We’re proud to say that more than 80 percent of Discover Puerto Rico employees are from Puerto Rico, and are the island’s most passionate advocates.”

As a result, the focus of the campaign naturally turned into a story about the people, instead of the territory as a travel destination.

Recognizing that Puerto Ricans are diverse, Discover Puerto Rico incorporated diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the forefront of their campaign. The devotion to representation is apparent in the showcasing of all types of Puerto Ricans in each visual component: models, real families, young children, 55-year-olds, heterosexual and LGBTQ+ couples, Afro-Boricuas, and Asian Americans. 

Aside from committing to Puerto Ricans on-screen, Discover Puerto Rico showed strong dedication to the local communities behind the scenes. With Emmy-award-winning Jean Paul Polo leading as the Director of Creative Strategy, the production team also hired three Puerto Rican companies to bring the “Live Boricua” brand campaign to life: Cinetrix with director Mariem Pérez Riera, Young Collective with still photographer Steph Segarra, and REAKTOR Post for post-production.

This is the first time in the history of Puerto Rico’s tourism campaigns that two Puerto Rican women, Pérez Riera and Segarra, directed all visual components of the island’s tourism brand campaign. By investing in local companies, cast, crew, venues, and props, the campaign was able to contribute to the island’s potential economic impact outside of tourism.

Cinetrix Director Mariem Pérez Riera
Young Collective photographer Steph Segarra

In 2021, Puerto Rico was among one of the top searched destinations for summer travel, according to Kayak, and saw its highest annual overnight visitor spending at $4.5 billion. Not only that, but the first quarter of 2022 set total lodging demand records, and March showed the highest hotel occupancy since 2017 with the highest monthly revenues on record, according to STR. Through September of 2021, hotels in Puerto Rico are booking 20 percent higher than the same point a year ago, according to TravelClick.

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Tags: brand marketing, branding, coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, discover puerto rico, diversity, diversity and inclusion, local, locals, puerto rico, tourism campaigns, tourism marketing

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