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How Event Destinations Are Adapting to a Virtual Market

By Angela Tupper

Event planners have arguably never faced more barriers than they do now. If destination marketers want to pitch their destinations successfully, they need to take into account that nearly all events are online now. 

As part of our recent Future of the Event Industry virtual event, we spoke with Discover Puerto Rico to learn more about three strategies they’ve developed as a direct response to the biggest issues facing event planners.

Positioning their destination as a passport-free travel option for US event planners, they discussed their approach to health and safety concerns, remote engagement options, and meeting support needs.

Leading with Event Safety Measures 

Speaking on behalf of Discover Puerto, both Deborah Cohen and Vanessa Figueroa explained that they know how crucial health and safety is to event planners at this time.

Part of their role is to track and communicate the territory’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, and they wanted to make it clear that they are available to share any information that may be needed. During their interview, they explained that Puerto Rico was one of the first US regions to implement a curfew and install thermographic cameras for temperature checks at its international airports.

Their DMO is also taking a proactive role in establishing and monitoring safety standards at key venues. To keep client safety needs top priority, Discover Puerto Rico established a Customer Advisory Board for guidance on new meeting protocols and site inspections. They have helped to develop island-specific health and safety certification seals for their hotels and venues. Discover Puerto Rico is also working closely with the Puerto Rico Convention Center, which has implemented ASM Global’s VenueShield program and is working toward GBAC’s Star Facility Accreditation.

Creating Remote Engagement Options

Deborah and Vanessa were also quick to acknowledge that planners need opportunities to engage remotely, since many are limited to their home offices for the time being. In response, Discover Puerto Rico has launched a series of virtual experiences that allow planners to stay engaged with the destination while exploring options for future in-person events. Dubbing them “virtual vacations,” they have published virtual tours of the island’s top natural wonders and museums, as well as dance lessons, culinary demonstrations, local recipes, and a mixology class. In addition to producing their own video compilation of beach sounds and views, they partnered with PCMA to present a series of live yoga sessions broadcast right from the beach.

Discover Puerto Rico and its partners have also undertaken a number of initiatives to facilitate remote event planning. One example is an interactive itinerary management tool that includes geo-mapping and flight trackers provided in partnership with Travefy. The Puerto Rico Convention Center offers a 360° virtual tour of its facilities, and Discover Puerto Rico can arrange remote meetings with a variety of venues to discuss their updated health and safety protocols.

Meeting Support Needs

It goes without saying that event planning is more labour intensive than ever before, and Discover Puerto Rico is acknowledging this need by offering the assistance of their own human resources. Deborah Cohen explained that their team is available to help negotiate flexible attrition agreements with many of Puerto Rico’s top venues, who have already expressed a willingness to discuss contractual accommodations. Recognizing the difficulties inherent in promoting events at this time, their staff is also ready to support event marketing efforts. To this end, they are working with the Puerto Rico Convention Center to develop a plug-and-play option for hybrid events.

Discover Puerto Rico also wanted to emphasize that they are still open to site visits. Wherever possible, they are actively welcoming meeting planners to explore the island in person. Their staff can arrange venue tours along with a number of different excursions and group activities. Puerto Rico is currently accepting inbound international flights, but travel restrictions require visitors to complete a molecular Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. While these regulations are subject to change, you can always check the Discover Puerto Rico website for the most up-to-date information on health and travel advisories.

 

IN CONCLUSION

While some travel restrictions are still in place and the future remains uncertain, Discover Puerto Rico is doing what it can to answer event planner questions and provide assistance wherever possible. Their services include:

  • keyboard_arrow_right Information on Puerto Rico’s health and safety measures, as well as on new venue protocols and certifications
  • keyboard_arrow_right A variety of virtual tours and experiences
  • keyboard_arrow_right An interactive agenda management tool
  • keyboard_arrow_right Support with contract negotiation and marketing initiatives
  • keyboard_arrow_right Customized on-site visits

Current limitations on travel put Puerto Rico in a unique position relative to US event planners, who may want to give their attendees a chance to explore a new location without the complications of leaving US territory. Nevertheless, their 3 main strategies for recovery can be applied in many different contexts. The essential point is to keep meeting planner needs top of mind.

about the author

Angela Tupper
Angela Tupper is a writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. Her writing for the events industry pairs an interest in current affairs and technology with a background in B2B events, and she has contributed to a range of editorial pieces and research projects in wide distribution. She also holds an MA in English from the University of Toronto.
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