The Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) held its 2016 annual convention Aug. 1-3 in Minneapolis, and change was in the air. This year’s convention theme— “It’s a Brand New Day”—was meant to convey a rebranding of the vision created by a mostly new team of senior executives recruited by new CEO Don Welsh, who left his job as president and CEO of Choose Chicago to join DMAI earlier this year after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel waffled on the matter of renewing Welsh’s contract and the Illinois State Legislature froze $7 million in tourism funding for Choose Chicago.
Within two weeks of joining DMAI, Welsh fired 75 percent of the association’s senior staff. The new team—several of whom worked for Welsh in Chicago—formulated the convention program in just three months with a blend of content that was generally acclaimed for its variety and relevance. One could sense the welcome felt toward Welsh and his team by a travel and tourism industry segment that constantly under siege from funding sources over accountability and relevance in an era where hoteliers have a variety of other channels to generate bookings and the sharing economy is forcing them to choose between consumer preference and members who see it as an existential threat. Below are some highlighted points from presentations by Carolyn Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, and Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA that dealt with the international travel market and global travel trends.
—In recent years, the number of travelers from China to California grew 890 percent, buoyed by Chinese visitors from the nation’s emerging middle class.
—Chinese visitors spend 40 percent of their annual budget on retail, and shopping has become a destination driver.
—In recent years, there has been 44 percent increase in air passenger seats from China to California … a total of 44,000 a week.
—China was the state’s No. 34 overseas market in 2010; this year, it ranks No. 2 behind the UK.
—The U.S. share of the Chinese travelers total is just 2 percent.
—Chinese travel buyers from secondary cities used to buy USA product from Shanghai and Beijing operators, but now they are developing their own products.
—The group market seems to be finished; FITs are now brave enough to try local cuisine.
—Emerging markets for California: Brazil, which was tier 1, but is now tier 2.
-—Gulf carriers (Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways) have reduced what was once a 10 hour layover in Los Angeles down to one hour.
—South Korea and Mexico continue to perform well.
—Four percent of Chinese have passports today, by 2020 it will be six percent.
—Since the validity period for U.S. visas was extended from 1 to 10 years, there has been a 50 percent increase in visa requests by Chinese.
—Chinese Incomes are growing at an annual rate of 10 percent.
—Desire to travel is among middle and upper classes is now at 56 percent.
—The USA is the largest long haul market for Chinese travelers.
—Chinese outbound is projected to grow to 250 million outbound visitors by the year 2020.
—In order to meet its goal of 100 million international inbound visitors to the USA by 2021, Brand USA needs to get carriers to expand lift capacity.
—Marketing tip: Like stock markets, travel companies need to invest in a portfolio of countries for the long term.
—The USA is able to overcome strength of the dollar because we have such a vast variety of products at different price points.