For me, nothing describes the enigma of Puerto Rico better than it's sorted relationship with tourism. For on the one hand we have our stated goal, which was recently summarized by Governor Luis Fortuño: "Tourism enriches our economy and is a very important focus for us." While on the other hand we have such an ineffective approach to managing our tourism industry that it makes one wonder if there is a coordinated and intentional plan to sabotage that industry.
I remember asking a highly intelligent, well connected, Puerto Rican friend of mine why Puerto Rico wasn't more like Orlando, and his response was "Did you ever consider that Puerto Ricans like Puerto Rico just the way it is?" Now I don't think he was jerking my chain or kidding, so like wine, savor his statement for a while, before reacting.
With recent reports of Governor Fortuño signing eight new tourism initiatives into law, it appears that reform of the Tourism industry is at hand. In this first post on tourism, I'll examine an initiative launched recently by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, again I would like to remind everyone that I don't go looking for things to bash, they come to me. My wife sometimes tells me, "You don't think Puerto Ricans can do anything right," so I guess it does seem like I focus on the negative too much here in Dondequiera. I think for the most part I tend to stick to what I was taught as a child, "If you don't anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all." However, what gets my blood boiling is when people make claims that under examination only reveal hypocrisy, vanity, and plain old incompetence .
In my opinion, here in Puerto Rico we accept bad service too easily. I believe the tendency is to avoid a confrontation about "hot" topics like incompetence, bad service, or injustice because we don't want to make anyone look bad. So instead of confronting a situation head-on and calling someone (or some company) out on doing a terrible job, we say "¡Ay Bendito! and let it slide, but then we'll go around to all of our friends talking badly about someone (or some company). Then when presented with the same situation again, we try to navigate around the situation, just to avoid confrontation.
Recently the Puerto Rico Tourism Company announced a new integrated marketing campaign designed to increase awareness and make Puerto Rico a "top of mind" destination. At the center of the initiative is a series of Elliott Erwitt photographs taken during a return trip to Puerto Rico last spring where the world-renowned photographer re-discovered the Islands' essence: romantic, rich in culture and experience.
The $10 million advertising campaign will run on networks like Bravo, Food Network, Fine Living, Travel Channel, CNN and CNBC. Print ads will run in titles like Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, Food & Wine, In Style, Town & Country, and Travel & Leisure. The advertising plan, will run in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington DC, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Atlanta and Miami, consisting of television, print and online webisodes with messaging that evokes a personal connection with Puerto Rico and inspires people to visit the islands.
First of all, and I've said this before, I don't think that big budget advertising campaigns are the answer to reforming our tourism industry. I'd say that advertising is more of the same, and by the way, I'll be getting to the scandal behind us re-adopting "Lo hace mejor" slogan. Now I've not seen any of the print or television ads, although I'm sure they're stunning. Nor have I found any of the webisodes mentioned in the press release. No, I'll be approaching this from a web perspective, specifically the Internet Marketing aspects of the campaign:
- Non existent SEO - I hope they take a little bit of the money they are spending and buy their way to the top of any search for "See Puerto Rico", because right now the site they created SeePuertoRico.com doesn't even show up when you search for the words in the domain name. Ladies and Gentlemen, you have to try very hard to avoid getting a site associated with the words used in domain name itself.
In fact, I would submit, only a complete noob would create a web site that couldn't be indexed by the words used in a domain name. Once again, I would point to Adobe Flash as the culprit, but the problem with Flash is usually indexing content inside the movie, I mean you can't even find this site if you search for it. I mean check out the meta name="keywords" collection. Did they leave anything out? Well perhaps one important one "See Puerto Rico."
- All rights reserved - Did you know that there is an alternative to the traditional copyright, namely, Creative Commons? On the Flash movie, it clearly assigns the traditional copyright, "All rights reserved" to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC). Now one can assume from that declaration that the photographer Elliott Erwitt transferred the copyright of the images used in the website to the PRTC. So they could license them anyway they want, so the question is: "Why wouldn't they want to "protect" the images?" The answer involves understanding the importance of the Remix culture on the Internet.
Essentially the logic goes something like this. We assume that the PRTC paid a hefty amount for the world famous photographer to capture these images. Putting a "All rights reserved" declaration on the images only protects them in the United States, those words are mostly meaningless elsewhere. But if they did pay a lot for them, wouldn't you want the most people possible getting a hold of the pictures? If they are, as Jaime Lopez, executive director of The Puerto Rico Tourism Company says:
"He depicted the true realism of Puerto Rico; he captured our beaches, yes, but he unveiled so much more with images of our rain forests, our architecture and culture that make Puerto Rico so special."Then wouldn't you want everyone to have access to the pictures to use as they want, just as long as they promote Puerto Rico as a, how did that go again? Oh yeah, a "top of the mind" destination.
- Linking - Now one of the reasons that no one can find the website "See Puerto Rico," is because they don't even link to it from their own website. Go on, go check it out. So riddle me this: "Why would you create a new $10 million campaign and not even link to it from your main website?" Is it sabotage or ineptitude? If anyone has seen any of these ads, can you tell me whether they direct you to the "See Puerto Rico" site or to the main GoToPuertoRico.com site?
- Flash - Again, why Adobe Flash? It takes a long time to load and none of the content gets indexed. When are we going to get over this hammer predisposition, that every website looks like an Adobe Flash nail?
So once again, riddle me this: "Why doesn't the PRTC have a blog which shares information about Puerto Rico?" or "Why does the press link on the GoToPuertoRico.com have only one news item about No Passport Required?" or "Why doesn't it include a copy of the press release they sent out announcing the See Puerto Rico campaign?" And finally, "What conclusion am I supposed to come to, when you put all of this together?"
¡Ay Bendito! They did the best they could! At least they're trying! No! I'm sorry! If they are going to spend $10 million of our hard earned (and collected) tax dollars, I believe they can do much better. We can and should demand better, and the first step is criticizing them publicly for their shortcomings. I hope you can understand.