How “Code and Stay” Packages can Work for Puerto Rico Tourism

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Puerto Rico has tremendous year round weather!

Would you rather be freezing, working and coding in NYC or Boston all winter long? Or would you like a respite from the frostbite on the sunny beaches of Puerto Rico?

Imagine, you can get on a plane during a blizzard, wearing your ushanka, and about three and half hours later step out into blazing sunshine in shorts and flip-flops.

(Note: For those that might not know, “code/coding,” as it’s used here is meant to be analogous to computer programming/hacking, creating apps, and developing online platforms for business and money making purposes.)

There’s been a lot of not so great news coming out of Puerto Rico lately regarding residents leavingthe debt burden, and lost jobs.

But on the flipside, Puerto Rico was just voted “Best Caribbean Island” by the readers of USA Today! (How’s that for irony?)

It’s easy to see why it was voted number one! Puerto Rico has something for everybody with sandy beaches, the rainforest, world-class resorts, intimate Inns, great food, impressive culture, friendly people, and the list goes on and on.

Puerto Rico Best Caribbean Island

While there is, sadly, an undeniable “brain drain” happening in Puerto Rico, what about the “brain rush?” Specifically, those skilled and entrepreneurial minded travelers who come to the island for a week, ten days, or even for a month.

How do we connect them, promote collaboration, and knowledge give-and-take, while they’re in Puerto Rico?

Well, what you might not know — through all of the noise — is that there’s a tremendously dedicated group of talented individuals seeking to change Puerto Rico’s economic trajectory through entrepreneurship, technical innovation, and creativity.

Game changers like Marcos PolancoRamphis Castro, and Dana Montenegro, and startups like BlimpKytelabsAnt Rocket, and Piloto 151 are shaping Puerto Rico’s future economy; via one day of work and one line of code at a time.

You might be thinking, “How does the Puerto Rico Tourism fit into all this?”

To which I would answer, it all starts with a Tweet. You see, my former Launch Academy Coding Bootcamp cohort-mate, Zach Young, and I were having a Twitter conversation and he mentioned that he “keeps seeing photos posted of Puerto Rico” and stated, “I need to get out there!”

Then the “light bulb” went off and I sent the following Tweet to Puerto Rico Tourism Company as a way to start the discussion and to have them think about becoming the conduit between travelers and locals.

puerto rico tourism twitter

To their credit, Puerto Rico Tourism replied and suggested I “DM,” which I did.

twitter puerto rico tourism 2

The idea behind – (choose your name) “Code & Stay,” or “Hack & Surf,” or “Collaboration in Paradise” – packages would be to create even more avenues for information exchange, technical inspiration, and creative growth here in Puerto Rico.

Fact: Talented individuals (like Baris at Google) are traveling to Puerto Rico for vacation. However, unlike Baris, many visitors might not know how to connect or get involved with the entrepreneurial community here who are working to launch something brilliant and world changing.

That’s where “Code & Stay” packages come in. For a bit of vacation time mentoring entrepreneurs, giving presentations, or pair programming (or live coding) visitors to Puerto Rico — who are in the entrepreneurial and tech world — could get packages with reduced rates, guaranteed upgrades, or other booking incentives.

Specifically, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, in conjunction with a group like Startups of Puerto Rico, could perhaps initiate the discussion with a forward thinking airline like JetBlue, and approach hotels like the San Juan Marriott, the DoubleTree, and the Intercontinental San Juan. Or, conversely, maybe smaller boutique properties like Andalucia Guest House, Acacia Boutique Hotel, San Juan Water & Beach Club would be willing to discount room rates or offer other enticements.

You get the point.

How does this benefit the traveler, tourism, and the local entrepreneurs?

In order to be successful, all good ideas must solve a problem or provide some type of benefit(s). The following are just a few of the possible, tangible outcomes:

The visitor – Besides coming to an amazing destination, they would get a real cultural experience and have the opportunity to interact with some of the brightest and most talented folks in Puerto Rico. That’s not even mentioning (hopefully) discounted travel and a place to work like Piloto 151.

Most importantly, I believe that the traveler stands to share their knowledge, while at the same time, learning a lot and getting educated about the “Best Caribbean Island.” In the grandest of outcomes, maybe they come back and invest or create jobs here.

The Puerto Rico tech & entrepreneurial community – Certainly, with social media, the barriers of global communication have been largely dissolved. However, collaborating with someone in person on a business idea, or hearing an outside perspective on entrepreneurship, or working to solve a particularly tricky coding problem, has intrinsic value.

Even though there are fantastic tech and entrepreneurial meetups on island, sometimes it can feel as though you are working in a vacuum. Outside connection and perspective can sometimes be the antidote and solution to pushing a creative idea further.

Puerto Rico tourism – As a former hotel owner here in Puerto Rico I can tell you that these early adopters of technology and entrepreneurs are exactly the type of guest that we wanted staying with us. They are the bloggers, the Twitter power users, and addicts of Instagram who will help to grow a hotels digital presence by writing, Tweeting, and posting about the island, their interactions with the creative community, and the properties they’re staying at.

With respect to global tourism, creating a “Code & Stay” promotion is an innovative approach to marketing the island as a destination and no other location has such a program.

In closing, the above post is meant to just get the initial idea out to the greater world and to create a discussion amongst stakeholders like the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Startups of Puerto Rico, and travelers to the island.

Certainly, more thought, dialogue, and “packaging” needs to go into the “Stay and Code” concept. Please offer your input and thoughts below on how you might structure this idea for success or share on Twitter.

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Mark Hayward