by Alex Palmer | September 02, 2014
Promoting a destination to business travelers means talking about more than just business. That was one of the main points emphasized at this year's annual meeting for Meet Puerto Rico, held on Aug. 27 in the Puerto Rico Convention Center.

The gathering was used not just an opportunity for promoters of the destination and members of the meetings and incentive industry to gather and discuss opportunities for the coming year; it looked at the future of marketing MICE destinations more generally. Specifically, that effective meeting and incentive promotion will blend a bit with leisure travel as well.

"What happens on the leisure side has an impact on the meetings side," said David Kliman, founder of hospitality industry consulting firm the Kliman Group who had been tapped by Meet Puerto Rico to oversee the formation of a Customer Advisory Board, which met in July and discussed where the destination should be focusing its marketing efforts in the coming year. Kliman unveiled the advisory board's findings, whose members include meetings planners, travel buyers, and executives at organizations such as HSBC Securities and Procter & Gamble.

Among the Customer Advisory Board's recommendations were that Meet Puerto Rico showcase its experiential offerings -- the beach-going, dining, and cultural experiences more often associated with leisure travel, rather than the facilities and infrastructure more typically discussed in meetings marketing.

Meet Puerto Rico's new marketing literature embraces this approach. For example, a print ad includes a checklist of "Reasons for meeting in Puerto Rico" followed by a fading list of amenities and offerings, ending with "On a tropical island" and "In the Caribbean."

This blurring of the lines between MICE and leisure travel seems poised for wider adoption by many other DMOs. Michael Gehrisch, president and CEO of Destination Marketing Association International, who also spoke at the annual meeting, described the growing need for destinations to create a "brand" message in terms of their offerings that would appeal not only to an organization, but the individual.

The event also inaugurated the Gilberto "Kiko" Pesquera Hall of Fame -- a new award launched to honor individuals who have dedicated themselves to promoting Puerto Rico as a MICE destination. In particular, it celebrates those who have made a far-reaching, positive impact on the marketing of the destination into the future. The award's namesake was its recipient this year, and his son, Jorge Pesquera, accepted the honor on Kiko's behalf.

"We are thrilled to share our tremendous accomplishments from the past year, as well as provide strategic education through our relationship with DMAI. In addition, it is time to celebrate and honor those who have gone above and beyond in promoting Puerto Rico as a top meeting destination," said Milton Segarra, President and CEO of Meet Puerto Rico. "We cannot thank "Kiko" Pesquera enough for his contributions to our industry and with this posthumous homage, a first recipient; we hope we have done so."