Jean-Paul was born and raised in Puerto Rico. A filmmaker at heart, he has dedicated his career to content creation and strategy. After seven wonderful and life-changing years at National Geographic, he is now part of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s newly created destination marketing organisation.
The Polo Story
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and always had an affinity for telling stories of impact. The first sign of this was my interest in Model United Nations and Drama clubs in high school.
My initial instinct was to embark on a career in international relations and politics. During my college years in Washington, D.C., I started to go to small art house cinemas with my college friends. There I had the opportunity to see both fiction and documentary films from international directors and auteurs. Four films had an incredible impact on my life, π by Darren Arronofosky, Born into Brothels by Zana Briski, Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore and Magnolia by PT Anderson.
Within two years of going to the cinema I fell in love with storytelling, filmmaking and the impact it can have in changing people’s life, and the perception on issues of worldwide importance.
You wake up in the morning what’s the driving passion?
The power of impactful storytelling drives me. Through it, I can highlight the work, passions, and resilience of others. I am also moved by the love I have for the arts, the desire to continue discovering rich and diverse gastronomy, and my commitment to developing my craft on the golf course to the best of my abilities.
Given the massive hurricane that hit Puerto Rico in late 2017 - what is the state of golf operations now on the island?
Puerto Rico is a golfer’s paradise! After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has been able to create new and improved golf experiences, surpassing recovery expectations. The island has 17 fully functional golf courses, which offer a plethora of course designs and playing conditions. The PGA tour’s PR Open was celebrated this past February, after a one-year hiatus. A true testament to the recovery Puerto Rico has seen.
How long a time frame did it take for the golf side of the equation to return to a somewhat stable situation?
I think it’s safe to say that golf courses in Puerto Rico were fully functional within under a year, after Hurricane Maria. Golf course owners and managers were determined to bring them back as soon as possible, and the very next day after the storm, recovery efforts were underway to restore facilities, which in many cases are in better shape than ever.
You hold a position with the title of Director of Creative Strategy. What does that mean specifically, and the scope of your activities include what?
I oversee the pipeline of creative content production and the implementation of marketing and branding strategies to the content we create. This includes video, TV ads, photography, graphic design, and co-productions for films, television series and digital series, for example when Jimmy Fallon produced an episode of The Tonight Show in Puerto Rico.
From a marketing side - what specific markets in America are being sought and itemise the specific international locations being targeted?
Our overarching marketing strategy is focused on the US mainland (94%) and some international markets (6%).
Given the ideal weather year round - is there a specific time frame that is more ideal for visits to take advantage of any lower costs being offered?
High season is November through to April, and many in North America love that time to visit when its cold where they live and the golf courses aren’t in prime condition. But we have substantial summer visitation, as many people like the longer days, the value rates, and it jives with their kids being out of school.
Customer service is routinely bandied about by those in the hospitality and golf sectors. Define the term, and the approach followed at the key golf clubs in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans are the friendliest people you will ever meet, and naturally, customer service and hospitality have been ingrained in our DNA. The customer service you will see in the golf course matches the island-wide desire to ensure that every person that visits has a memorable experience, wherever they go. Staff at golf courses are not only golf knowledgeable but also extremely friendly and eager to provide guests the best golfing experience possible.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally - what would it be and why?
Perception. Golf is perceived as a sport of the elite. As the sport has grown, we have seen people from all walks of life, enjoying it and excelling at it. Golf, unlike other sports, teaches critical values applicable in many areas of life.
How is golf being developed in Puerto Rico - especially for younger players and those coming from lesser economic means?
The Puerto Rico Golf Association has laid the groundwork to develop younger players and grow the sport. They run the local junior leagues, provide golf opportunities to people from lesser economic means and systematically market the sport. The PGA Tour’s PR Open has served as a springboard to attract new players to the game and courses have implemented programs to help as well. I believe there is still more work to be done, and the potential to grow is enormous. I find it mind-boggling on an island with 365 days of golf-friendly weather, we only have two Puerto Rican professional players on tour.
Best advice you ever received - what was it and who from?
From my mom: “Work dignifies.” From my dad: “If you want something, work to attain it.” From my dog Phoebe: “Woof Woof.”
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