Distilling Puerto Rican Sunshine, with Leah Chandler

Episode 302

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Leah is the Chief Marketing Officer for the Puerto Rico Destination Marketing Organization, Discover Puerto Rico. As CMO, Leah is responsible for providing strategic marketing leadership for the organization, overseeing the DMO’s paid media, creative, public relations, brand development and management, and digital strategy.

Before her move to San Juan, Leah was the Chief Marketing Officer for Explore Branson, where she led the growth of the community’s tourism industry for five straight years, repositioning the destination’s brand and posting back-to-back years of record ROI for the organization’s marketing program. In previous years, Leah led the Missouri Tourism account at H&L Partners, the agency of record for the Missouri Division of Tourism. In this role, Leah developed and guided the strategic direction of the Divisions marketing, managing paid and earned media, creative and interactive development, and campaign implementation. Leah led Missouri Tourism’s brand repositioning effort in 2013, introducing a new brand identity and corresponding campaign featuring Enjoy the Show.

Leah is a travel and tourism industry veteran, having directed the Indiana Tourism account for five years prior to joining H&L Partners. Leah earned her Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) credential in 2014. This designation from Destinations International is the tourism industry’s highest individual educational achievement.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Leah Chandler, who describes what community-led tourism means to the team at Discover Puerto Rico and how they have built partnerships across the island and internationally. She shares how her organization is building brand equity through creative collaborations, including establishing a Pantone color called Puerto Rican sunshine, teaming up with a UK fashion designer for New York Fashion Week, and pitching and landing a Spanish language countdown with Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve with Ryan Seacrest that was hosted and broadcast from San Juan.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Leah’s experience of building a brand new DMO in Puerto Rico
  • The things that ensure Puerto Rico stands out from the crowd including encouraging visitors to connect meaningfully with the island and its culture to give them a feeling and emotion that they can’t get at home via their Live Boricua campaign
  • How Leah and the Discover Puerto Rico team apply their points across a variety of verticals
  • How they have moved through the challenges of the last five years, including political unrest, an earthquake, and a global pandemic, as a new DMO and how their crisis playbook helped them
  • Leah’s advice for listeners building an organization from the ground up
  • Some of the collaborations and initiatives that Leah is excited for in the future
  • How a cold call resulted in Discover Puerto Rico landing the first Spanish language countdown with Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve with Ryan Seacrest, which was hosted and broadcast from San Juan.

Building a Brand

Tourism destinations aren’t always considered a brand, but according to Leah Chandler of Discover Puerto Rico, they certainly are a brand. She describes why it can be hard for a brand to develop equity when it’s constantly changing and how her team is creating a space in potential visitors’ minds for the type of experiences they can have in Puerto Rico.

Leah also highlights the importance of finding Puerto Rico’s point of differentiation, which is the culture, and ensuring everything the DMO does ladders up to that positioning throughout all of its messaging, earned media, and paid channels.


At Discover Puerto Rico, they are super serious about their research and data to ensure that before they put something into the market, they can be confident of what consumers are looking for. This is how the idea for the Live Boricua campaign was born – the term is used to signify someone of Puerto Rican heritage and brings to mind a way of life, a spirit, and a flavor of the island.

Leah shares how the concept highlights how visitors can enjoy Puerto Rico like a local and acts as a love letter to the island, its residents, and its visitors.

International and National Partnerships

We dive into some of the creative collaborations that Discover Puerto Rico has been involved in, including an innovative project that involved distilling the unique color of Puerto Rican sunshine, then working with the Pantone Colour Institute to turn it into a Pantone color they could leverage across several different verticals and work streams. Some of the partnerships that enjoyed this infusion of Puerto Rican sunshine included New York Fashion Week with designer Christian Cowan, an eco-friendly paint brand, and a local popsicle shop.


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