But Personal Relationships Still Bind Industry Together: It didn’t come all at once, like an epiphany, but more like a series of messages as we who prepare the Inbound Report reviewed our photos and recollections of our meetings and conversations at IPW 2016 in New Orleans: The torch has been passed to a new generation of tourism industry sales, marketing and public relations professionals—some young enough to have born in the 1990s—who came of age and entered the industry equipped with the high tech tools of their generation.
At one point, our editor was sitting an appointment at the IPW Media Marketplace with Rachel Cromer, public relations and media specialist at the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA), listening to her make a thorough and flawless presentation on what the organization does to promote Native American destinations and attractions, when he realized, “My, she is young.”
Back at his desk, doing follow-up, he noticed on her LinkedIn profile that she had graduated from college in 2012. It would be years before she would be born, he thought, when he attended his first IPW in 1986 in Phoenix.
And so it was, as we discussed what we had picked up about trends and projections, who’s gone where, who’s been promoted and who’s gone on to something else, that we realized just how young the median age of the IPW delegate pool was this year.
Yet, in an age when other industries survive and thrive through the internet and the digital devices that bind them to their markets, the tour and travel industry still depends on personal interaction and personal relationships.
Coming out of Retirement: Much like a retired baseball player, some of the key players in the industry came out of retirement to join their successors and former teammates to show international tour operators and journalists that the link was still there, and that it is OK to relate to the younger teammate who had taken their place.
So it was that Maureen Droz, trade sales and marketing manager for South Dakota Tourism, who announced her retirement earlier this year after spending the majority or her professional career with the agency, joined the state’s IPW team and helped buyers make the transition to the newer sales and marketing staff.
And there was B.J. Stokey, who retired a year-and-a-half ago from her post as senior manager, international tourism development, for the Port of Seattle, joining the team to help promote the destination, which has become a magnet for the growing Chinese market.
Also on hand was Werner Escher, the long, longtime—more than four decades—executive director of domestic and international markets for Southern California’s South Coast Plaza who has been joined at the shopping attraction by Brian Chuan, who transitioned from Macy’s and who is acknowledged expert on how to use the WeChat platform (WeChat is used by about 650 million people in China) for sales and marketing.
Left to right: Brian Chuan, director of travel trade development at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California; Werner Escher, executive director, domestic and international markets, South Coast Plaza; Daniel Shen, president, Lion Tours USA; and Alicia Chuan, marketing director, Los Angeles office, Lion Tours USA
Escher’s presence in the booth—as well as the presence of Droz and Stokey in the booths of their former organizations—provided buyers with a personal and reassuring presence to those who consider IPW and other trade shows as much a reunion as a business meeting. Escher, a skilled story-teller, worked the show as much as he did before, dispensing warm embraces, smiles, anecdotes and remembrances, closing with “And, oh, isn’t there some business we have to take care of …”
The torch has been passed or is being passed, but it is still all about relationships.
A Note about the Trump Factor: When a journalist got up at the Monday morning press conference held by Brand USA and asked Christopher Thompson, president and CEO, about the impact of presidential candidate Donald Trump who, he noted sharply, had insulted Mexicans and Muslims with his remarks, there was an audible groan—much like a “Boo!”—that emanated from most of the 250 or so journalists gathered for the occasion.
While Thompson’s response skillfully responded to the question, saying, in essence that his organization was prepared to work with whomever the new commander-in-chief would be, it did nothing to quell the undercurrent of hostility that the overwhelming majority of delegates had, and have, for Trump.
Some operators indicated to us that they would simply not book USA product and look elsewhere to take their business, should Trump be elected. And some are already avoiding Trump-branded properties anywhere.
REMINDER: With this issue, the Inbound Report will be published biweekly until after the USA’s Labor Day holiday (September 5, 2016), when we will resume publication on a weekly basis.