National State Tourism Directors Mercury Awards > Travel Website
National State Tourism Directors Mercury Awards > Travel Website
About This Entry:
On the heels of one of the most deadly and destructive hurricane landfalls in recorded history, the island of Puerto Rico was struggling to survive. While it was hard to see at the time, it was also poised to become a truly amazing comeback story thanks to the passion, generosity and dedication of the island’s people.
Until July 1, 2018 the island did not have a dedicated destination marketing organization. Prior to that, tourism marketing had been handled by the government, which meant each new administration changed out agency contracts and direction. Every few years there would be big promises and relatively few results. Then Discover Puerto Rico was established as a private, not-for-profit enterprise whose mission is to make Puerto Rico visible to the world as a premier travel destination.
Discover Puerto Rico (DPR) was born working against the clock. The visitor economy was bottoming out, hotels were reopening with fractional occupancy, and media coverage of the island was focused on the faltering recovery. There was a need to reclaim the island’s narrative and remind consumers of the rich culture, natural beauty and hospitality of Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately, the newly born Discover Puerto Rico did not have all the necessary tools to get the job done: The tourism website was more than 10 years old and had become a patchwork of disconnected content and functionality; there were no high-quality image assets because of limited licenses; and the business listings were not functional data but rather text on a page. The situation required simultaneously developing a digital strategy, content assets and a new digital platform — a process that would typically take a year or more — in just a few months.
We started to develop the information architecture and content strategy in November of 2018 and the first phase of the website launched on February 28, 2019. In between, we acquired thousands of images, created hundreds of pages of editorial content, showcased parts of the island that were previously nearly invisible online, and started to inspire travelers to discover Puerto Rico.
The process began by establishing a strategy based upon research, including custom third-party research, traveler surveys, data from hoteliers, stakeholder input, and more. Using this baseline, Discover Puerto Rico established key audience personas that would help to focus the site’s content strategy as well as separate efforts at media planning. Layered onto that, we conducted a comprehensive digital audit to evaluate the island’s existing tourism website, social and other channels to identify needs and opportunities.
The website development process began with information architecture and content strategy, with the latter aligning as much as possible with paid-media personas, including Nature Enthusiasts, Active Adventurers, Arts & Culture Aficionados, Foodies, Family Travelers, and Beach-Goers in order to maximize value.
The site’s development process was significantly truncated due to the pressing need to support the recovery of the tourism sector. What might’ve been a 12-month process under normal circumstances was compressed into about 90 business days. The focus for the dev team was to create a flexible content management system that could provide inspirational, multimedia storytelling capabilities across a wide range of topics. Page components were designed and launched as they were completed so that the content team could build editorial pages as quickly as possible after content was created, reviewed and approved.
Simultaneously, Discover Puerto Rico’s newly created multimedia team was working on creating or acquiring thousands of high-quality images to support the inspirational quality of the site, showcase the island’s beauty, and its level of recovery. The organization went from having a few dozen limited-license images to having an owned library of thousands of images that spanned the entire island.
One of the unique challenges we had was related to business data. Research by the Foundation for Puerto Rico showed that there were thousands of businesses on the island that had no digital footprint whatsoever, which rendered them invisible to travelers. We partnered with the foundation to offer the island’s most comprehensive set of business data on the website, creating a resource that would help increase the visibility of small businesses throughout the island.
The most important outcome we achieved was getting a beautiful new website launched at the end of the first quarter of 2019, within 8 months of the creation of Discover Puerto Rico. The new site showcases more parts of the island, more businesses throughout the island, and provides a deeper level of content for prospective travelers to learn about the history, culture, events and cuisine of Puerto Rico. The site will play a key role in the rest of the island’s marketing efforts as it continues to recover from Hurricane Maria.
The new site has exceeded expectations for performance in its first month, and although it is still a work in progress, the initial results data compared to the previous site is impressive. Pageviews from the old site to the new site are up 132% month over month, and we’re creating deeper engagements with visitors who start to look at content about the island. Pages per session is up 39% (from 1.86 to 2.58) and time-on-site is up 48% (from 1:47 to 2:38). Part of the growth is attributable to a sharp focus on organic performance. The previous site had relatively little organic traffic, so while it would’ve been hard to do worse, we also couldn’t afford to lose any additional visibility. While most sites suffer a loss in search visibility during launch, organic traffic to the website was up 12% during the first month.
There are two other metrics that we are incredibly proud of. First, as it relates to generating visibility for businesses on the island, the site produced 9,651 outbound referrals to more than 1,450 tourism websites and points of interest across the island. The site also generated 550 enewsletter subscriptions in its first month, which is crucial as the organization develops its owned audience. We inherited no email lists or social followings from our predecessors and are building that from scratch now.
The initial cost of the website development was $300,000 and we have invested another $200,000 in additional phases of content and functionality that have been introduced since launch.
Why This Is A Finalist:
This was a huge effort against insane odds given the hurricane and the tourism website was more than 10 years old, with no high-quality image assets, the functionality was low, including business listings as text on a page. This redesign was impressive, considering the destination was under extreme duress. Site development was cut due to the need to support the recovery of tourism. (A 12-month process was compressed into 90 business days.) Puerto Rico had a lot of obstacles but results were positive. They had high organic performance and the most important outcome was launching at the end of the first quarter of 2019—within 8 months of the creation of Discover Puerto Rico.
- Category Winner