Tag Archives: Doug Yonko

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Tourism groups’ merger gives industry more strength and unity

Call it strength in numbers, or strength in unity.

“With the challenges that the tourism industry has faced over the past several years, our industry has had to come together to better vocalize the importance of tourism to Arizona’s economy,” says Debbie Johnson, a longtime advocate of Arizona tourism. “In doing so, it became evidently clear that the Arizona Tourism Alliance and the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association had virtually the same missions and goals and could have a stronger, more cohesive voice if united; so the conversations of mergers began amongst the two organization’s leadership.”

Those conversations led to the two groups combining forces early in 2012 to form the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association (AzLTA), with Johnson leading the charge as the group’s president and CEO. The new organization has a combined membership of almost 500 and has helped broaden the reach and scope of the tourism industry’s branding and message.

“Arizona must continue to think globally as well as act locally,” says Doug Yonko, executive vice president of communications for Hensley Beverage Co. and chairman of AzLTA’s board. “We are a premiere destination. However, competition for tourism dollars is fierce so we must stand together by working closely with the private and public sector and our legislature to ensure continued growth and increased market share of the tourism dollar.”

AzLTA’s leaders say the new supergroup will give the tourism industry the ability to speak from one unified voice, particularly on the legislative front, which will strengthen the industry.

“AzLTA unites hoteliers with key segments of the tourism industry — including Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, many state convention bureaus, private business and the Arizona Office of Tourism,” Yonko says. “The economic impact of the tourism industry affects most businesses at some level and — very importantly — our state tax revenue stream. The tourism and hospitality industry represents the second leading driver of our state’s economy, subsequently it is crucial that the business community and our legislature continue to recognize and support this pillar of our economy.”

Along those lines, the goal of the AzLTA is to work with and educate state legislators, offering training to those in the industry through workshops and seminars, and uniting those industries that are impacted by tourism. Its specific mission, Johnson says, is “to unify, protect, educate and promote the interests of the Arizona lodging and tourism industry.

“This mission is a combination of the missions of the former two groups, which were similar in structure and tone prior to the merger, but now have greater value after the merger,” she says. “AzLTA, and the Super PAC that the organization recently created, is now recognized as one of the leading industry voices in the state.”

AzLTA PAC is the state’s 25th Super Political Action Committee (PAC), which is expected to send a message to lawmakers about the strength and impact of tourism across the state. A Super PAC requires a minimum of 500 people to donate a minimum of $10 each. The funds can then be used to show support for candidates who understand the value of tourism to Arizona.

“AzLTA will have a seat at the table where policy is shaped that could directly or indirectly impact our ability to attract visitors and businesses to our state,” Johnson says. “It will ultimately raise the awareness that Arizona tourism is the catalyst to economic development,  job creation and tax revenue generation that positively impacts every Arizona resident.”

Arizona Tourism Alliance Brian Johnson

Arizona Tourism Alliance

Brian Johnson, managing director Loews Ventana CanyonBrian Johnson
Managing Director
Loews Ventana Canyon
www.loewshotels.com

With 33 years in the industry, Brian Johnson has experienced firsthand the roller coaster ride the tourism industry takes as the economy shifts. Johnson has risen far in his career, working his way up from a dishwasher to his current position as managing director of the iconic Loews Ventana Canyon in Tucson. But even a resort as well known and popular as the Loews Ventana Canyon must work hard during tough economic times and low tourism rates.

“As anyone else, we have to find ways to create a new wrinkle that will bring people back to our property,” he says. In the past and in recent days, those new wrinkles have included renovations, nature trail additions that harmonize with the surrounding environment, and a butterfly garden. As one of the first ecologically conceived hotels, the environment has always played a part in all of their decisions, he explains.

Johnson’s involvement in the Arizona Tourism Alliance, where he serves on the executive committee, has been beneficial for both himself and the resort.

“It’s one of these things where you have a group of like-minded people who are dealing with the same issues and putting everyone together to create that effect that will help the common good of our industry,” he says. “It’s a global standpoint; we’re not just looking at one area, we’re looking at all the components and doing what is good for all of Arizona.

“I think in our industry, you can be whoever you want to be. This industry has created that opportunity for me and my family … ”


Lorraine Pino, manager of Glendale Convention and Visitors BureauLorraine Pino
Manager
Glendale Convention and Visitors Bureau
www.visitglendale.com

Spend just five minutes with Lorraine Pino and one thing becomes obvious — she’s passionate about tourism, not only in Glendale, but the whole state of Arizona.

As manager of the newly appointed Glendale Convention and Visitors Bureau (formerly the Glendale Office of Tourism), Pino promotes all Glendale has to offer. She has managed several campaigns that benefit both Glendale and the West Valley. One such campaign is Shop Glendale, a program that provides daily discounts and monthly prizes for the public from more than 70 business participants. To date, more than 35,000 Shop Glendale cards have been distributed.

Pino also helped create the West Valley Events Coalition, which brought West Valley cities together to pool their resources for advertising and marketing efforts geared toward tourism.

Involvement in the Arizona Tourism Alliance has been vital to the efforts of Pino and her team, she says.

“The resources, education and connectivity of the Arizona Tourism Alliance (ATA) are a huge help and much needed foundation for CVBs and DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) throughout the state,” Pino explains. “With our recent transition to a convention and visitors bureau, the resources of the ATA were monumental in helping us form our business plan.”

The new status as a CVB has brought a wealth of positive changes, she says. Funding from the members can now be used toward more aggressive marketing and branding efforts.


Doug Yonko, vice president of communication Hensley DistributingDoug Yonko
Vice President of Communication
Hensley Distributing
www.hensley.com

Doug Yonko is a true believer in longevity and commitment. Just take a look at his employment history with Hensley Distributing. The Phoenix-based beer distributor has existed for 55 years and Yonko — who works as the vice president of communications — has been with the company for more than half that time.

Hensley Distributing is active in many of the community’s charitable efforts, and encourages its employees to do likewise. The company and its employees are also committed to being involved in key issues that impact the state, including Arizona’s tourism. Yonko demonstrates that objective through his involvement on the Arizona Tourism Alliance’s executive committee, where he says he has the “opportunity to connect with some really smart people who truly understand the significance of tourism.”

The downturn in the economy and political issues such as SB 1070 have hit the tourism industry hard, Yonko says, but the situation has taught the business community how to withstand hard times.

“I believe there is a silver lining in these challenges,” he says. “The issues ranging from immigration to budget cuts, etc., have brought the business community closer in terms of the discussion and development for long-range solutions to protect and to foster the growth of the tourism industry. … We have to hold ourselves accountable, as well as the Legislature for our future — funding is critically important if Arizona is to remain competitive.”

AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011