Before the outbreak of the pandemic, travel and tourism in Puerto Rico generated $5.17 billion in economic activity. Then came the travel shutdowns in 2020, during which economic activity fell 66.4 percent to $1.74 billion, causing a 13.9 percent loss of employment in the industry.

Travel industry job losses in 2020, coupled with those from Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the early 2020 earthquakes, also “confirmed the importance of efforts to rapidly boost tourism in Puerto Rico,” officials said in Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s official destination marketing organization. .


Those officials met in July with leadership at Brand USA, the official destination marketing organization for the United States, to address the post-outbreak travel landscape. The ‘stakeholder day’ was described as a comprehensive discussion of ‘how both organizations are working together to promote travel to the island’.

After the gathering, TravelPulse spoke with Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, and Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, about the organizations’ collaborative initiatives to revitalize tourism on the island.

Both claim that current consumer sentiment and travel behavior are combining to make Puerto Rico an “ideal” destination for international travelers.

Chris Thompson, Brand USA CEO
“We have many voices to tell the story of the United States.” – Chris Thompson, Brand USA

TravelPulse: How does Brand USA work?

Chris Thompson: Brand USA has been around for 12 years. In the 10 years I was there, our job was to promote the entire United States, all 50 states and the five territories and the District of Columbia. We take this very seriously and we are committed to what I would call the storytelling role of our nation.

TP: What is the role of the organization’s story?

CT: It means the way the stories of the United States are told. We have many voices to tell the story of the United States. During the course of [Brand USA’s] evolution, we have found several ways to enable those stories to be told [including] constructive consumer campaigns. We also have a TV channel in the US and are creating and licensing content.

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TP: How does BrandUSA leverage stories through online distribution?

CT: It gives us the opportunity to give all destinations within the entire US the opportunity to tell their story. I would say over the course of our time, during the partnership with Discover Puerto Rico under Brad’s leadership, they have taken every one of those opportunities to position the unique story that is Puerto Rico.

TP: Of course, Puerto Rico is one of the five US territories you mentioned earlier, right?

CT: Yes. Puerto Rico feels international because it is within the Caribbean and is an island destination. But it is very much a part of what the US is and tells a unique story.

TP: How has the partnership benefited Discover Puerto Rico, Brad?

Brad Dean: Puerto Rico has the potential to attract more of a global audience, certainly through cruise, but also through land vacations. [Brand USA] is usually an efficient affiliate marketer. They create synergies and efficiencies that we simply could not create on our own.

Brad Dean, Discover Puerto Rico
“Puerto Rico has the potential to attract more of a global audience, certainly through cruise, but also through land-based vacations.” – Brad Dean, Discover Puerto Rico

TP: How else does Brand USA at Discover Puerto Rico help promote travel to Puerto Rico?

BD: They open vertical markets and channels for us that we couldn’t open or pursue, even if we [had] a bigger budget. When you think about Puerto Rico, whether it’s Europe or South America and also potentially Mexico, for a destination like ours on a limited budget, Brand USA enables us to enter or explore markets that we might not otherwise pursue.

TP: How does this engage an international audience?

BD: USA brand [creates] opportunities to tell our story on a global level that simply don’t exist for us otherwise. Whether making movies on the big screen or [social media] stories, they allow us to leverage Puerto Rico’s brand message on a global scale.

TP: What was the focus of the July board meeting between the two groups?

CP: We [reached] to work with our partners at Discover Puerto Rico to discuss how we can work with our stakeholders for the common achievement to talk about what we are doing and can do together.

TP: Are there other ways that Brand USA has reached out to Discover Puerto Rico?

BD: To Chris’ credit, he was on the island a few weeks before the board meeting with stakeholders, talking about what Brand USA could do. So they’ve really been an incredible part of Discover Puerto Rico’s four-year history. More importantly, they have helped the recovery of travel and tourism in Puerto Rico.

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