Tag Archives: arizona tourism industry

climate denialism

Arizona’s hospitality industry embraces global market

Arizona has the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Sedona, but to promote these natural wonders to international travelers is no walk in the park.

To showcase Arizona around the globe, it takes detailed research, strategic planning, effective branding and marketing, a global network of industry professionals — and the power to erase any lingering negativity associated with the state.

Despite several years of bad publicity surrounding controversial immigration policies and other proposed legislation that darkened the state’s reputation, Arizona is experiencing an increase in tourism.

“We definitely try and share with everyone we come into contact with that we are a more progressive community than the state is known as being,” says Joanne Hudson, public relations specialist for the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Certain markets, especially the Mexico visitor, have been negatively affected the last few years from the state laws and policies that have come out,” Hudson says. “We share that we are a very welcoming and open community and try to get them here to experience it. Once they get here, they really do sense and feel that. They realize it isn’t what they see and hear in the news.”

Rachel Pearson, vice president of community and government affairs at the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, says, “We are traveling around the world connecting with customers and clients, trying to reinforce who we are as a destination, who we are as a state and ensuring that people understand that we are a very welcoming destination. We offer some unique, rich experiences that you can’t have anywhere else.”

Beyond the state’s scenic beauty, Arizona’s diversity, especially the Native American and Hispanic cultural influences, appeals to international travelers, explains Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.

The rich multi-cultural experiences and gorgeous scenery, combined with outdoor activities, vibrant cities, fine dining and shopping, attracts millions of visitors and brings in billions of dollars.

Industry leaders are looking toward the future with optimism as they strategize how to attract even more world travelers.

“Arizona Office of Tourism has been active in the international market for years starting with Mexico and Canada, and overseas with partners in the United Kingdom, Germany and France,” Henry says, “and just three years ago we launched into emerging markets of China and Brazil.”

MEXICAN INFLUENCE

Currently, Mexico tops the charts for international travel into Arizona. At the height of the controversy surrounding Arizona’s immigration policies, the influx of Mexican travelers decreased. But statistics from 2013 show a rebound with a total number of Mexican visitors to Arizona at more than 3.6 million. Other countries that rank high on the list are Canada, Germany, United Kingdom and France with 1.1 million visitors collectively. Total international travelers in 2013 reached roughly 5.3 million.

The Arizona tourism industry has been proactive in reaching out south of the border and developing programs to promote and facilitate travel in Arizona.

Jessica Stephens, director of public relations at Visit Tucson, says travelers from Mexico bring in close to $1 billion a year in southern Arizona alone. Visit Tucson has two visitors centers in Mexico that help with hotel reservations and other concierge services. They also help expedite border crossings with a program developed with customs and border patrol that allows pre-approved travelers to obtain a fast pass. This makes traveling to Arizona a 12-minute trip instead of waiting in a car for hours.

Other Arizona cities and convention and visitors bureaus have pooled resources to fund trade offices in Mexico. Today, Henry says, the discussions no longer reflect the challenges of the past, but instead focus on the future. “It’s all about how we can be better partners and how can we develop that area that has such great potential.”

FOCUS ON CHINA

Arizona is now setting sights on China, the number one traveling country in the world. Henry explains that there is so much potential for growth in the emerging markets of China and Brazil, which is also topping the international travel charts. She pointed to a partnership with Brand USA, the marketing arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce designed to develop travel interest in the United States, as essential to increasing global awareness.

“We think Arizona has such appeal,” Henry says. “International journalists are amazed at what they see when they are here, and they bring the stories back to their countries.”

Barry Nakano, director of business development with PacRim Marketing Group and a board member of the Hospitality, Sales and Marketing Association International Arizona Chapter, knows the Asian markets. He recognizes the potential of the China market and points out that other Asian markets also impact our economy. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism statistics, Japan and the Republic of Korea brought in more visitors than China in 2013.

“There’s definitely a lot of interest today in the China market and understandably so. Their 1.3 billion population presents enormous potential and the recent decision by the U.S. government to extend Visa validity for visitors from China should accelerate the growth of that market. We shouldn’t overlook however, that Japan is still the second largest overseas feeder market to the U.S., and South Korea and Taiwan markets continue to grow. Japanese, in particular, have been traveling overseas a long time so tend to be more independent and willing to explore new destinations.”

INDUSTRY PREPARES

Nakano offers practical advice for those in the hospitality industry as they prepare for the influx of international travelers.

“The most efficient and cost effective way to reach Asian travelers is online and providing information in the language of the traveler is important,” he says, adding that websites should be an essential part of any marketing toolkit. “When creating an international language website, make sure the content is developed by professionals, not by translation software that has difficulty conveying intangibles we promote in travel like experience and atmosphere.

“For hotels, it’s also important the online booking engine is in the target language to make it easy for travelers to complete reservations, which is the ultimate goal.”

One thing to note when targeting travelers from China is their spoken language is Mandarin and their written language is called Simplified Chinese so any written information should be in that form.

He continued to offer tips for hotels. “To attract Asian travelers, it’s important to show cultural sensitivity and make them feel welcome. Including small touches in guest rooms like slippers and Chinese tea, along with coffee, will be appreciated and can go a long way. Offering other amenities like Asian-language TV channels, newspapers, area maps and dining menus will make guests feel comfortable after they arrive and can also be used as selling points to show you care.

Henry is already seeing changes at the Office of Tourism and in the state. “We’re finding that Arizona is becoming more globally aware. On our staff we have staff members who speak Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese for the folks coming in from Brazil. We are in a global environment now. The whole world has changed and everybody is beginning to think globally.”

Michelle Oden-Huebner, CMP, president of Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International Arizona Chapter, says the hospitality industry has always been one that supports diversity and inclusion.

As Arizona increases its global visibility, it needs to continue to show that the state is inclusive and promotes diversity in the workplace and marketplace, Oden-Huebner says.

“Tourism is one of the largest export industries in the State of Arizona, providing funding for education and vital services in local communities,” she says.  “This makes Arizona more attractive for new businesses to relocate to the area, thus creating more job opportunities.  The more business we bring into our state, the more money we have to support the greater community improving and increasing services for residents in Arizona.”

sales

HSMAI helps hospitality industry fuel sales

Like most industries, hospitality took a hit during the economic downturn, but the Arizona travel industry started to recover in 2010 and pumped $18.3 billion in direct travel spending into Arizona’s economy in 2011.

Helping fuel that economic engine is the Arizona chapter of the he Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).

“HSMAI’s mission is to provide hotel professionals and their partners with the tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue,” says Joanne Winter, executive director of HSMAI Arizona. “HSMAI is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners, and to be the industry’s leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth.”

HSMAI is not new to Arizona’s tourism scene. The Greater Phoenix Chapter was incorporated as a chapter in 1968 and merged with the Southern Arizona Chapter in 2005 to become the Arizona Chapter. The united force has worked well as the 250-member Arizona Chapter has grown to become the second-largest chapter in the U.S. and was honored in 2011 as International Chapter of the Year.

“Our chapter offers members a variety of benefits, including monthly education programs targeted specifically to the sales and marketing and revenue management professional, a variety of networking and fundraising events, leadership development training and community service volunteer opportunities,” Winter says. “The bottom line: We want HSMAI to provide our member companies with added and measurable value.”

That measurable value is exactly what HSMAI leaders say differentiates the nonprofit organization — whose core members are hotel sales and marketing professionals and their partners: CVBs, attractions, restaurants and suppliers to the industry — from other tourism-boosting organizations.

“We serve our members through a comprehensive online Knowledge Center and face-to-face and online educational programs and events,” says Bob Gilbert, CEO of HSMAI Americas. “Our HSMAI University produces between 30 and 40 webinars annually and administers four certification programs for industry professionals. We are the only nonprofit association dedicated to this educational mission with a hotel target audience.”

Like every other industry that is constantly evolving and growing, HSMAI has kept its finger on the pulse of the business to adapt and change with the economy and with the times.

“There is a lot of pressure to deliver increased member value for all not-for-profit associations,” says Fran Brasseux, executive vice president of HSMAI Americas. “HSMAI got out in front of that changing environment  nearly two years ago and  held numerous stakeholder focus groups to review our member value proposition, and our industry relevance. We listened, we asked questions, and we acted. We reset our mission statement and redesigned our logo.  We wanted  to ensure it represented  not just who we are, but what we do.”

From those meetings came HSMAI’s mission statement: HSMAI is committed to helping hotels and their partners fuel sales, inspire marketing and optimize revenue.

“In line with the new mission, we laser focused our member e-newletter to increase its frequency and  focus its content on three key areas – sales, marketing and revenue management,” Brasseux  says, “and late last year we also completed a complete makeover and redesign of our hsmai.org website and the HSMAI Foundation Knowledge Center. The work is not done – it is on-going, and the member feedback is excellent, with membership growth, higher program participation and new partners.”

Gilbert says the Arizona Chapter has been producing educational programs for its members for more than 40 years.

“We believe that chapters can produce programs that leverage the interdependence of all those in a market that depend on the inbound corporate, leisure and group traveler,” he says. “Chapters can focus on very specific needs and emerging trends which will help the industry be better equipped to gain more market share and revenue. The hospitality business has been experiencing significant shifts in how hotel business in sourced and how consumers select destinations and hotels for all types of travel. HSMAI is committed to helping sales, marketing, and revenue management professionals stay abreast of the emerging changes and best practices that will enable their success.”

As HMSAI strengthens the knowledge base and performance of its members, the Arizona Chapter is also realizing that there is strength in number, joining forces with other industry groups to build on the state’s success in tourism.

“As a member of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association (ALTA) and the Arizona Event Industry Alliance (EIA), HSMAI has the opportunity to work with other state-wide meeting, tourism and hospitality industry associations in giving the industry more strength and unity,” Winter says. “Working together, we all make a difference and have a bigger voice.”