This month’s third edition of La Cita de Las Americas, the boutique trade show that was created in a little more than six months after the collapse and closure of La Cumbre in 2012, seems to have found a more workable and effective formula in matching up buyers and suppliers and creating more networking time. Rick Still, who founded the now-defunct La Cumbre trade show a quarter century ago and nurtured it into place as the top travel trade show serving U.S. suppliers and Latin American buyers before selling it to Reed Travel Exhibitions and stayed with the company for several years into the mid-part of the first decade of the new millennium, at first called La Cita a “non-trade show” trade show in its first edition. It is now a trade show.
The Inbound Report attended the first La Cita two years ago in Fort Lauderdale, but took a pass last year to see how it would shape up before returning to the third iteration earlier this month at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. We left Boca Raton with the following five takeaways—based on our own observations and after we talked with some three dozen operators, suppliers, U.S. federal agency officials, Latin American journalists and others—which are discussed in more detail further below:
Overall, the market that we call Latin America—for the most part, this means Spanish-speaking or Portuguese-speaking South America, Central America and Mexico—is stable, and Visit USA traffic should increase by single-digit percentage point increases through the next five years.
- As for South America, it’s still mostly about Brazil, and there seems to be no consensus on what the near-term future holds for this market. Some buyers and suppliers told the Inbound Report that they expect that the country’s upscale, big-spending “A” class travelers will continue to visit the USA, despite a 12-year-low in the value of the Brazilian real against the U.S. Dollar and low confidence in an economy that is now in the midst of a recession. Others were quite convincing in their opposing view, however, pointing out that the currency exchange rate between the Brazilian real and the U.S. dollar has nearly doubled the price of air travel to the U.S. in just one year—something that is pushing middle class families to stay at home and vacation in Brazil or somewhere in South America. Most shopping center marketers have said that a drop-off has already resulted in a decline in the volume and value of purchases by Brazilian visitors.
- Colombia is growing as a key market, and has surpassed both neighboring Venezuela, as well as Argentina in Visit USA visitor volume as its peso—while it has declined against the dollar, it has not taken as much of a hit as other currencies—is relatively stable; its national economy is strong; it has a achieved a level of political stability that it has not experienced in a half-century; and lift capacity out of Colombia has grown through new direct flights and connections to the U.S.
- A surprise. No one—absolutely no one—is complaining about the performance of the U.S. State Department’s handling of visa applications and the timeliness of its granting of interviews, although most still grumble about their reception once they arrive in the U.S., but the greeting and processing of visitors to the U.S. is overseen by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) service, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Everyone we spoke with seemed to agree that the ease of securing a visa to travel to the United States is a factor in their positive outlook Visit USA traffic.
- La Cita is Now a Permanent Fixture on the Travel Industry Calendar: After some stops and starts and steps back to check and assess what worked and what didn’t, the newest trade show that “started as a reunion is now a tradition,” in the words of one DMO official. Rick Still, now 68, launched the show with the help of family and friends and his family, primarily in the person of his son Matt and daughter Heather, have taken on more and responsibility and will carry it on at some point in the future.
Now, in order:
- “A steady procession of growth” is the way Ron Erdmann, deputy director of the U.S. National Office of Travel and Tourism, characterized the arrivals numbers from major Latin American national markets over the past dozen years. In some cases, the percentage growth has been dramatic. But Erdmann, a familiar presenter at travel industry conferences, took the occasion to emphasize that some of the larger percentage increases had to do with the small base on which they were measured, while the importance of Mexico is preeminent: “It is eight times larger than the next largest Latin American market (Brazil),” he noted. He also pointed out that all of Latin America comprises a source market larger than Canada.
Key Latin American Markets
U.S. Arrivals, 2013-2014
|Country/Market & Rank||2013 Visitation||2014 Visitation||Percentage Change|
|(000s)||(000s)||2014 vs. 2013|
|7. Dominican Republic||238||272||14%|
|11. Costa Rica||182||203||11%|
|14. El Salvador||105||126||21%|
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, ITA, National Travel and Tourism Office; Statistics Canada; and Banco de Mexico/Secretaria de Turismo (Mexico)
While much of what Erdmann presented, and commented on, has been available for a while, it has been buried deep within the data bases of NTTO, and it is difficult for the agency, with its small staff and meager budget, to accommodate requests for customized configurations. So, although the numbers he revealed are no more recent than 2014 (year-to-date numbers for 2015 have been held up by the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] which tallies them, and has problems related to the slow counting and key-punching of answers from paper surveys, as well as a contractor who has had difficulty with its assignment by DHS), La Cita marked the first forum at which they were released in a form that was directly related to the Latin American market. One consequence of this was that, every time Erdmann shifted to a new table on the big screen projector, anywhere from half-dozen to a dozen or more hands thrust smartphones in the air and snapped photos of the slide.
Mexico has a unique status in Latin America. Its people speak the language of South and Central America, yet it borders the United States and, like Canada and the U.S., is a part of the continent of North America. While some of its increase in arrivals to the United States is due to improved methods of measuring visitor traffic, much of it is due to an increase in the size of its travel ready middle class and a marked increase in lift capacity—especially on the part of Volaris airlines. The low-cost carrier, which launched its first flight to the USA less than six years ago, now flies to more than 20 U.S. destinations from several locations in Mexico. Mexican air passengers are also benefiting from other carriers that connect through Mexico on their way to the U.S.
- In South America, it is still all about Brazil … or mostly about Brazil: Two years ago, at the first La Cita, as far as the South American market was concerned, there was Brazil and then there was everyone else. This year, the nation is still the dominant market in the continent: About one-third of the operators were from Brazil and the lines were longest at the Brazil area on the morning of La Cita’s second day when suppliers sought to schedule last-minute appointments with operators. But there are signs and reports that all is not well.
At that morning session, the Inbound Report had the opportunity to speak with Janaina Maria, Florida manager for CVC, Brazil’s largest tour operator and travel agency and Clovis Casemiro, a São Paulo-based operator. Both acknowledged that the nation’s economy is in bad shape, but held to the position that the Brazilians who want to travel—i.e., well-to-do people in the country’s A and B social classes—would travel regardless of price. Other delegates from the country did not agree, believing that there would be a decline next year in the number of those in the C class (or middle class), especially among those who had risen from the D and E classes during the past decade.
From the time of La Cita 2014 to La Cita 2015, the Brazilian real sunk from 44 cents vs. the U.S. dollar to 26 cents vs. the U.S. dollar—a decline of 41 percent. This alone, another Brazilian told us, was enough to make air fare alone too much for, say, a family of four to consider a vacation in the USA. Another sign that the trade in Brazil is acknowledging the impact came just days before La Cita began when the Carlyle Group—the global venture capital firm based in Washington, D.C. which acquired CVC in 2010—announced that it had acquired two travel companies in bordering Peru: Nuevo Mundo Viajes and Condor Travel. CVC will merge the two into a regional tourism company and make it the largest travel company in the country. Nuevo Mundo is the chief outbound tour operator in Peru and Condor Travel is a prominent inbound tour operator in the country. The acquisition gives CVC established partners and, for Carlyle, diversifies and expands its holdings in South America beyond Brazil.
One did not have to walk very far through aisles at the compact La Cita trade show to find someone representing a shopping mall or a DMO whose attractions include shopping malls to find out that the numbers of big-spending Brazilian shoppers has declined. We already knew the outlook on this issue for South Florida. At ipw three months beforehand in Orlando, Brenda Lounsberry, marketing director for the upscale Mall at the Millennia in Orlando, told us that the number of Brazilian traveler-shoppers was off from 2014. (Just in case such a decline might come, the mall had taken steps following the 2008-09 economic recession, to refocus attention on the 60 percent of the customer base that is local in order for tenants to hang on.)
Brazilian shoppers at the malls are extremely important to the region. Erick Garnica, director of international sales for the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB, explained to us that the average spend of a Brazilian visitor to Sawgrass Mills, the huge shopping mall in Fort Lauderdale, is $3,000. Obviously, mall tenants don’t want to lose such customers.
With all of the evidence pointing to conditions that would suggest a decline in travel from Brazil to the United States, there are no hard data to make the case, except for occasional statistical snapshot numbers on credit card purchases, travel spending and anecdotal accounts. Such data might be on the way finally, Ron Erdmann, NTTO deputy director said when the Inbound Report discussed the matter with him, as DHS has just made available data for the first three months of 2015. NTTO should have arrivals number shortly, he said, which should indicate whether or not the impact of the recession and the weak Brazilian real has statistical dimension, as January is a major travel month for Brazilians.
- Colombia Rising: Because more attention given to South American markets in the past several years has focused on the cratering of the Venezuelan market and the weakening of the Argentine market, few in the travel trade have given much notice to the markedly improved conditions for outbound travel from Colombia. Everything we heard at La Cita reaffirmed what we wrote in the final Inbound Report for 2014. Our outlook for Colombia took note of the new-found political stability in the nation after the powerful guerrilla organization FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) declared a unilateral cease fire in its conflict with the government—a cease fire that has held throughout 2015.
The Inbound Report said then, “Its growth in visitor numbers, then, should come as no surprise. Among South American points of departure, it is geographically nearest to many U.S. destinations. Its best known city, Cartagena, is about as close to Miami (1,100 miles) as is New York City. No other South American gateway city is as close. And air service has expanded considerably. Colombia’s Avianca airlines has recently increased flights from different points in the country (it began service last summer from the capital city of Colombia’s Risaralda state to NYC), and the new low-cost carrier VivaColombia, which is part of the Panama-based Grupa Viva, is beginning service to the U.S.”
Luis Hernando Beltrán, general manager of the Bogotá-based operator, Altair Viajes, agreed. He added, though, that the outlook would be even better were it not for the strength of the U.S. dollar vs. the Colombian peso, which has fallen in value by more than a third, year-over-year. But he was optimistic, as the travel-ready middle class in Colombia, which has a total population of more than 48 million, has grown and his clients, already familiar with destinations such as Florida, Las Vegas, California and New York, are testing new places—he specifically mentioned Boston in this regard. He also noted that Copa Airlines, which serves has extensive connections through its Panama City hub—it is less than 300 miles from Cartagena—to numerous North American destinations. And recently, the U.S. State Department extended the validity of tourist visas to the U.S. from five years to 10 years.
- A Waiver on Visa Handling Criticism: Gone were the complaints, the outpouring of frustration and a low-level tone of hostility that one found three years ago at any travel industry event at which a U.S. State Department official showed up to discuss U.S. visa policy. But now that a Obama Administration executive order issued in 2012 has been fully implemented, the number of visa processing officers has more than doubled in some places in South America (and in China) reducing the wait times for a visas application interview from months to days.
Explaining the process—rather than having to defend it, as was the case in the past—was Mike Ritchie, post liaison and policy advisor, Visa Office, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. State Department. A mid-career State Department professional, Ritchie has served tours of duty in both Colombia and Argentina, and demonstrated his knowledge of cultural and political terrain of his audience that packed a conference room at 8 a.m. (the size of the audience might also have had something to do with the free breakfast) to see and hear his presentation.
The number one question on the minds of most of those in the room was “Why are visa applications rejected?” Mostly, it has to do with why a person wants to go the U.S., and then the visa officer wants to make sure that the individual has the resources to make it back to his or her home country and will not overstay the time limit of the visa. “Tell us what you’re going to do in the United States,” said Ritchie, who noted that he has conducted about 80,000 visa interviews in his career, adding, “In the vast majority of the cases, our answer is yes. (So) … tell your clients, ‘just be honest.’”
Much of Ritchie’s presentation boiled down to points or answers that were numbers. Here is a sample selection from those numbers:
—90 percent: The number of U.S. visa applicants who can get an interview with a consular or embassy office within three weeks.
—10 years: the period for which visas issued in almost all Latin American countries are valid (Colombia was the latest to have the period of validity extended from 5 to 10 years).
—85 percent: worldwide, the number of visa applications the State Department approves.
—Zero: the amount of time an applicant has to wait to re-apply if he or she has been rejected.
—57,500: the number of visas granted worldwide to visit the U.S. each working day.
—Two to three months: the period of a time a visa interview officer is trained in the special language of the process (both in the U.S. and in-country) and on-the-job training before conducting interviews on a solo basis.
Ritchie artfully avoided a direct answer when asked about what it will take for a nation to be a part of Visa Waiver Program (a hot political issue in both the U.S. and Brazil, where the travel and tourism industry in both nations are vigorously supporting Brazil’s inclusion in the program, which now includes 38 countries) by explaining that the latest entrant in the program, Chile, had to satisfy numerous conditions before it was approved. “A country has to have the infrastructure for collecting the necessary security data” before it can be considered for the program, he explained.
- La Cita Finding out What Works, What Doesn’t: Gone from its first event in Fort Lauderdale two years ago were the series of small seminars and educational sessions; the dependence on on-site pairing of suppliers and buyers; and the down time used up by shuttle transportation, waiting for the shuttle or walking from the hotel to convention center. This year, buyers and suppliers had a pre-scheduling platform that enabled them to schedule appointments with just about everyone—even journalists; and the meeting spaces that founder Rick Still would prefer to call “offices” are now referred to by everyone as booths
Everything—registration, business meetings, meals and social functions—was staged or launched from one location: the host hotel, the Boca Raton Resort and Club. And all the delegates were there too. Networking and networking time was available on the exhibit floor, on the way to and from the event, in the hotel lobby, in the elevator and at the one luncheon on Thursday. Set for 300 attendees, the luncheon attracted so many delegates, friends and guests that another 10-seat table had to be set up. At larger shows, many delegates sometimes skip the luncheon to grab a cheap sandwich in a convention center or offsite. (Of course, the popularity of the buffet-style luncheon might have had something to do with the $21 it costs for a burger and $10 it costs for a small carafe of coffee in the hotel restaurant, as well as the absence of any nearby, offsite fast food joints.)
The Inbound Report found several delegates who did the same as we did—passed over the 2014 La Cita last year in Miami to see how it would shape up this year—and found the show’s mechanics this year were more to their liking. The show’s three languages (English, Portuguese and Spanish) presented no organic problems for anyone. While most materials and announcements were in English, there were more than enough bilingual and multilingual delegates in the conference center that one needed only to look side to side for an ad hoc translator if that was necessary, which was not often.
It was likely because of the proximity of everything and everyone that the comfort level was high. Nearly every delegate in attendance had been at ipw three months ago, and nearly everyone had some sort of comment on how the scale of ipw—while it creates economies made possible by its scale—made it extraordinarily difficult to get in touch with someone outside the exhibit hall. “You needed a GPS device to find someone else at Disney,” joked one delegate.
Also, although not everyone genuinely knew everyone else, the degrees of separation between one delegate and another were low in number. One operator told us that there was no need for awkward ice-breaker conversations—all one had to do if you didn’t know someone was to ask: “How do you know Rick?” It’s still Rick Still’s show. Or, more appropriately, it’s the show of Rick and family.
Still told us that his son Matt and daughter Heather “really ran things” this year. Now 68, he expects that his son and daughter will continue the show in the future. (Next year, it’s back to Miami.) Matt’s title was director of operations. Heather, meanwhile, was able to conduct business with her seven-month-old son, Josiah, attached to her via an over-the-shoulder child carrier. And then there were Still’s wife, Ginger, sisters-in-law and other assorted relatives.
When Matt discussed the show, he said the aim was to increase the tour operator presence by another 30-35 percent next year, and keep the supplier numbers closer to what they were this year. According to our calculations, the ratio of buyer to suppler is better than 1:2.
Unofficial Count of La Cita de las Americas Attendees†
|Booths||126 (10 doubles)|
† Tallied on-site
* This figure included those who staffed the booths occupied by U.S. government agencies
** Reps, journalists and publishers, individual contractors
Number of Booths—126 (10 doubles)
Top Buyer Markets: Brazil, 23 buyers; Argentina and Panama, 6 each; and Colombia, 5
Mark International and the Calculation that a VIP Product Will Produce
It’s all about the VIP—both the client that Mark International (MI) seeks to please as well as its “Very Impressive Product.” That’s the sense one gets in talking with Sean Bayless, MI’s vice president and general manager, and a veteran in the U.S. receptive tour operator industry who talked with the Inbound Report recently about his company’s expanded presence—through its VIP Concierge Service—into a lucrative market segment that hinges on its ability to appeal to, and serve, upscale international travelers to the USA.
MI underscored its move earlier this year through the launch of an online magazine that has a presentation which is the equivalent, in hard copy terms, of the traditional coffee table book. The 84-page publication suggests luxury experiences in upscale hotels and resort destinations—a presentation not unique to MI: AlliedTPro, Teamamerica and Bonotel Exclusive Travel have VIP product and online magazines at least as impressive.† Our discussion with Bayliss allowed us, then, to better understand what makes the VIP/concierge approach work in general and, on the other hand, why it is not for every receptive. Following are some points that Bayliss made during our discussion.
It was a way to break out: “We have a very different product. We’re not just a bedbank,” he told us, explaining that MI launched the new identity at the beginning of the year, even though the product line has been around, domestically, for more than six years (through Mark Travel’s Traterra Vacations). The latter figure seems to sync with the emergence, during and in the immediate wake of the 2008-09 economic recession, of VIP brands offered by other receptives as they sought product that would be immune from damage during difficult economic times. MI’s VIP Concierge Service is strictly international.
It helps to be part of a corporate environment that can synergize its components: MI is part of a large, Milwaukee-based company, Mark Travel, that also has Blue Sky Tours, Funjet Vacations, Southwest Vacations, My Destination Wellness and Showtime Tours. Bayless pointed out that one of the features of the VIP Concierge is ability to offer live, 24-7 service with the extended Mark Travel staff. “The synergy created by Mark Travels’s (different brands) gives us a lot of advantages,” he said. “At any one time, one brand’s staff might depend on others.”
Could he give us an example of what VIP Concierge Service means? To illustrate what the service can mean, Bayless explained that, recently, the company sent a concierge to join a small group of six clients and serve them, 24-7, throughout the group’s four-day itinerary in Los Angeles. (A group of six is about as large a group as MI serves on most occasions, as 90 percent of its guests are FIT. Bayliss acknowledged that the definition of a group has changed include smaller sizes; he defines a real group as 10 or more people booking 20 or more room nights.). While such personal attention is important to some, for others, the priority or the reasons are different. For instance, some clients are members of royal families, Bayless said, and, for royals security and privacy are very important.
What are the top source markets for the service? What destinations does it feature? Currently, Brazil, the UK and Mexico are the top three markets for MI’s VIP Concierge Service. Based on the number of pages in MI’s magazine, Inbound found that that Las Vegas is the locale of most of the inventory featured (26 pages), followed by Florida (14 pages), although it seems to have diversified as other destinations/properties comprise 31 pages. Asked if Las Vegas is still the lodestone for MI clients, Bayless told us, “No, Las Vegas is still very important as one of the top destinations for overseas travelers, but we now have diversified to a full product range with key cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and Miami, as well as National Parks and soft adventure. The main reason for the focus on Las Vegas and Orlando was that those happened to be the destinations where our hotel partners really realized the importance of education to the overseas client. Other key destinations that saw this importance as a destination were New Orleans, St. Petersburg Beaches and Portland/Oregon.”
Along with MI’s focus on the VIP market, there is a strategic plan for the company’s future that involves more multilingual staff and, of course, China. “China is definitely a part of our strategic plan for the future,” said Bayless. In the meantime, the company will continue to enhance its presentation and its online magazine. The magazine is a B2B tool. Specifically, Bayless noted, MI wants to get itself before reservation agents. When an agent is searching for, or about to book for, a VIP client, the agent looks for compatible product. Bayless explained that “many international operators now have VIP departments or the y will have someone who has been VIP-designated.”
So, when it comes to the matter of which destination to search, this is where the MI magazine speaks to the agent though the destination. The magazine is arranged by destination. Said Bayless, “What we wanted to do was give each destination to talk about itself. Tell the reader what they should know … the goal is to drive a longer stay because of the knowledge they’ve developed beforehand.” In the case of the USA—for many travelers who received their product through MI—the destination is a repeat destination. It’s no longer see a dozen places in 15 days. Instead, they’re staying longer in the destinations. It is because of clients who are discerning, clients who are repeat travelers, Bayless emphasize on several occasions during our conversation that. with the VIP product, “You’re not really selling an itinerary. You’re selling an experience.” (You can contact Sean Bayliess at email@example.com)
†Here is some basic information on their upscale product and concierge services.
Team America: “Our selected Elite Team will satisfy the needs of the most demanding VIP clients by booking Penthouses, Suites, Villas and special services starting from Private Jets, Rolls Royce, Bentleys, Yachts all the way to Butlers, Bodyguards, Personal shopper and any other request they might have.”
113-page brochure: http://dream.teamamericany.com/elite/Elite2015.pdf
AlliedtPro: Première by Kuoni—A VIP Concierge Experience
140-page brochure: http://valtech.ipapercms.dk/Kuoni/KuoniDESTMGM/KDMHO/ATPLifestyles/
Bonotel Exclusive Travel
207-page brochure: https://www.bonotel.com/onlineBrochure/2015/BonotelBrochure_2015.pdf
UK Data Points: What Traveler Will Spend $1,500 Abroad on Next Overseas Trip—Or, There’s a Survey for Every Subject
—A new survey by Momondo.co.uk says that more than half of people are struck down by the post-holiday blues. The survey of 1,000 Britons found that 61 percent of women and 51 percent of men feel sad after returning from a trip away. Other survey findings include the following:
—There are generational differences in post-holiday moods. While 58 percent of 18-22 year olds and 57 percent of 23-35 year olds felt “depressed” returning from a holiday, a lower percentage (47 percent) of 56-65 year olds experienced these feelings.
—On the other hand, 62 percent of Brits admitted to feeling happier and more positive when taking time off to travel.
—For 30 percent of those surveyed, a holiday has a positive effect on their relationship with their partner, while 20 percents of Brits said a holiday has a positive effect on their children.
—The return to everyday life after a holiday is often made easier for Brits by fantasizing about the next trip … 28 percent of women and 20 percent of men.
Summer’s Last Long-Haul Weekend:
—Just before the big weekend came around, ABTA estimated that 1.9 million people would travel overseas over the August 28-31 period. The last Monday of August is a Bank Holiday for most of the UK, Scotland excepted.
—Top destinations included Spain, Portugal and Turkey, while Madrid, Rome, Amsterdam, Paris and New York were the most popular city break destinations.
—More than 550,000 passengers were expected to depart from Heathrow, 270,000 from Gatwick, 145,000 from Stansted and 87,000 from Luton.
—Hundreds of thousands were scheduled to leave the country from other regional airports, ports and the Channel Tunnel.
—Abta members also reported strong sales to domestic beach resorts and the Channel Islands together with UK city breaks.
UK Consumers Not Too Knowledgeable account Currency Exchange Rates: Research conducted by YouGov for a new industry group, the Dynamic Currency Conversion Forum, revealed some interesting results, some of which follow.
—When more than 2,000 UK consumers were asked to convert £1 into its equivalent value in euros, only one in ten provided an accurate estimate at 1.4 euros.
—Almost a quarter (23 percent) stated outright that they did not know.
—Only 14 percent of those surveyed were aware that £1 is equivalent to $1.50, with 32 percent saying they did not know.
—Asked to rate their own understanding of foreign currency exchange rates, more than half of UK consumers (55 percent) admitted to being “not knowledgeable,” and just 6 percent claimed to be ‘very knowledgeable.”
—More than half (56 percent) of men claim to be “knowledgeable,” compared to just over a third (35 percent) of women. Men are twice as likely to rate themselves as “very knowledgeable” about foreign exchange rates compared to women (9 percent vs. 4 percent).
—for the majority (62 percent) of consumers, cash is the most popular payment method when abroad, followed by credit/debit card (27 percent) and pre-loaded money cards (10 percent).
—On average, Britons expect to spend £736 ($1,130) abroad over the next 12 months, excluding fights and accommodation. More than 20 percent of respondents expect to outlay of £1,000 ($1,530) or more.
The Top Gap Year Destinations, Courtesy of ABTA: Hundreds of thousands of students last month received their secondary school results, which means that many are starting their university lives this month. Thousands of others, meanwhile, are about to experience a “gap year” that revolves about travel experiences, beginning their college years in 2016. Also, thousands of college graduates will experience a gap year before entering the labor force. Some ABTA Members that specialize in gap year travel have reported increases more than 10 percent in bookings over the last twelve months with Australasia, South East Asia, the USA and South America being the most popular destination choices.
The top gap year destinations reported by ABTA Members specializing in gap years are:
- New Zealand
Pitbull, the Rapper, is Named Visit Florida Ambassador
Armando Christian Pérez, the rapper better known as Pitbull, has been appointed as Visit Florida‘s newest ambassador. A marquee performer for more than a decade, the 34-year-old Pitbull’s videos have generate more than 6 million online views and he has had No. 1 hits in more than 15 countries.
Pitbull, who has more than 100 million social media followers, will use and feature Visit Florida’s #LoveFL hashtag on all his video screens at concerts around the world. Through the partnership, Pitbull will also promote Visit Florida during his New Year’s Eve concert from Miami on Fox and do a weeklong takeover on the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show on iHeart Radio.
Pitbull, who was born to Cuban expatriates in Miami, demonstrated a talent for verse and rhyme as a near-infant. When he was just 3 years old, he could recite the works of Cuba’s national hero and poet, José Marti. (Marti wrote the lyrics for the poem that became the famous ballad, Guantanamera,)
Today, Pitbull has more than 100 million social media followers. As an ambassador for Visit Florida, He will use and feature Visit Florida’s #LoveFL hashtag on all his video screens at concerts around the world. Through the partnership, Pitbull will also promote Visit Florida during his upcomin New Year’s Eve conc
USA, Traditional Destinations, Losing Share of International Student Market
A just released study from Oxford University indicates that the United States will lose share among the international student market, as it grows to a total of nearly five million students by the year 2024. Even so, it appears that the USA will remain the favored international destination and place of study for international students throughout the period.
The United States is currently the most popular destination, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Australia, with these countries accepting half of all international students. However, the traditional market share of the USA and UK is declining, according to the report, and Australia and Canada are increasing in popularity, alongside intraregional mobility – those who choose to study in another country within their home region
The 27-page report—International Trends in Higher Education 2015—also points out, for instance, that “political and demographic changes continue to shape student mobility worldwide, exemplified by Asian strategies, where ASEAN – Association of Southeast Asian Nations – states are working to encourage domestic students to study in Asia rather than heading to Western universities.”
Another factor having an impact is the availability of online learning technology has removed the need for some students to travel abroad for their studies. For example, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have become one of the most high profile aspects of the use of technology in teaching in recent years, with 142 universities providing free courses open to all participants via Coursera and edX alone.
Other highlights, by the numbers:
—Almost 5 million: The number of internationally mobile students in 2014, up from 2.1 million in 2000.
—8 million: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s estimate of the the number of international students in 2025.
—53 percent: Percentage of Asian students of all students now studying abroad.
—81 percent: Percentage of international students in Japan who are from Asia.
—75 percent: Percentage of international students in Korea who are from Asia.
—One in six: The number of all international students who are Chinese
Also, at the postgraduate level in both the USA and the UK, China and India are the major sending nations of international students.
—886,052: Number of international students in the USA in 2013-14 school year, a 72 percent increase over 15 years from the 1999-2000 school year when there were 514,723 students.
Overview—Key USA Overseas Source Markets for Students
2013-2014 School Year*
|Country/Market||Share of International Student Population in USA|
|3. South Korea||8%|
|4. Saudi Arabia||6%|
Source: International Institute for Education (IIE)
* IIE is expected to have data for the 2014-2015 school year by this coming November
To view the complete Oxford report, visit:
How I Got My Start in the Travel Trade
“How I Got My Start” is a regular segment in which we cull a couple of selections from our interviews with international operators, domestic operators, receptive operators, destinations, hotels and attractions to explore the path that led one to a career in the travel trade industry. One thing we have learned: the road to where they are is almost never the same. In this issue, we feature: Mike Prejean, international services, Louisiana Office of Tourism; and Liz Bittner, executive director, Travel South USA.
Mike Prejean: “In 1981, I had just returned from a two-year tour with Netherlands-based Internationaal Danstheater, and my mentor in tourism, Henri LaFleur, asked me to work with him to develop a Cajun-themed shore tour to sell to the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. He developed a half-day experience in the swamps which included a Cajun cookout, variety show of Louisiana song and dance, and a Baton Rouge city tour. It became Delta Queen’s highest-selling shore tour. It also taught me that the best way to learn about receptive operating is to just do it and service clients correctly for the tour operators who deliver them to you.”
Liz Bittner: “My first job in the hospitality industry was night auditor at a Days Inn in Dayton, Ohio the summer after I graduated from high school. Frankly I wanted the job, so I could spend time at the pool with my friends during the day, because my true goal was to have a great tan when I started college. I was not planning to be in the travel industry, I wanted to be a lawyer. 25+ years later, I navigate state politics, a board of directors and destination marketing at Travel South USA.”
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
SpeedVegas, the soon-to-be opened Las Vegas attraction that offers customers a racetrack driving experience in exotic racing cars, has announced that Pavy Mueller has joined the organization as director of global sales. A 20-year veteran of the tour and travel industry, Mueller’s CV includes tenures with Four Season Hotels and, most recently, Sundance Helicopters. Her responsibilities will include corporate meeting/incentive group and leisure/wholesale markets.
Gina Romanelli has been promoted to the post of director of sales at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa. Romanelli has been with the attraction since 2004, most recently as director of group sales. Prior to joining the National Constitution Center, she worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Charles D. McKee has been named as head of marketing for Malaysia Airlines. McKee has 27 years’ experience in the airline, hospitality and travel sectors, including tenures with Air Canada and lastminute.com. Most recently he was vice president of marketing at Canada’s Delta Hotels & Resorts.
Samie Barr has been named as Hyatt’s new vice president of global brands. Barr, who has more than 25 years of consumer and retail experience, joins Hyatt from Starbucks, where she spent more than 14 years in a range of senior brand management roles. She has also worked for Nintendo.
Fanny Yeung has been named general manager of Sabre Travel Network’s Hong Kong operations. Yeung previously spent 20 years with Abacus, which was recently acquired by Sabre. She then moved to Travel Innovation Partners where she was responsible for product analysis and implementation support.
Reed Travel Exhibitions has appointed David Hidalgo Ayala as new show director, ICOMEX and Event Production Forum, for the Reed Exhibitions Mexico Portfolio. Prior to joining Reed, Ayala was general director of the Yucatan CVB.
Neil Beard, former Lowcost Travel Group head of worldwide purchasing, has joined Superbreak, where he serves as head of product and purchasing for London, reporting to sales and product director Jane Atkins. Before Lowcost Travel Group, Beard spent six years contracting hotels for the London Olympic Games.