Interview with Ernest Wooden Jr, President & CEO, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Bureau
We were fortunate enough to be able to discuss some of the key challenges facing Los Angeles with Ernest Wooden Jr, President & CEO at Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Bureau, and our closing keynote. LA is now planning for the Olympics in 2028, and Ernest will be joining us to explore how they are developing a strategic plan to engage citizens, develop infrastructure to support sustainable development in tourism and its economy and secure collaboration between the key stakeholders to build a unified vision for the future of LA.
CNP: What do you believe are the emerging opportunities?
EWJ: We at Los Angeles Tourism have worked strategically to (successfully) expand our international focus and invest significant marketing resources in new, emerging markets such as South Korea, India and Scandinavia.
We have kept our eye on Scandinavia for quite some time now seeing steady increase in visitation from the region since 2010. In fact, visitation from the market has now doubled since 2008 along with a surge in direct airlift. All indications are, with the region’s strong economies and long, cold winters, Los Angeles is positioned to be a premier holiday destination for Scandinavian travelers. This market is especially of interest to us as they tend to travel during our slower shoulder seasons.
South Korea continues to be an important emerging market for Los Angeles as it now represents our fifth largest overseas market with continued growth in recent years. We’ve undertaken several marketing initiatives to boost visitation from S. Korea including working with the star actor Daniel Henney on a new advertising campaign as well as collaborating with the YouTube creator, Korean Englishman.
We feel the future potential of the Indian outbound market to be as promising as China was a decade ago; fast forward to today, and China has become L.A.’s number one overseas market. The Indian traveler’s norms and preferences have shifted in recent years as now they demand value-based, experience-heavy holidays as must-haves. Fortunately, Los Angeles is a destination where these types of experiences flourish. Los Angeles Tourism recently began investing significant consumer marketing resources in India, garnering positive returns in a short time. Our efforts include leveraging beloved influencers and celebrities such as Indian actresses Malaika Arora and Sonam Kapoor. We’ve produced engaging digital content of their Los Angeles experiences which is designed to inspire their fans to follow their footsteps in the destination.
CNP: What trends in place branding and marketing are you interested in exploring?
EWJ: One particular trend that is becoming increasingly important in our world of place branding is the rise of millennial parents. This a group that represents more than 16 million households in the U.S.; they travel more often and further than any generation of families, while spending more. We also know millennial parents want to spend more time together and enjoy more experiences together, as a family. Research shows that nearly half of Millennial travelers plan to take a family vacation in the next few years, representing a very lucrative opportunity for destinations and our industry to explore.
CNP: Over-tourism and sustainability are two of the buzzwords in place branding at the moment – how do you feel DMOs need to adapt their strategies to meet these challenges?
EWJ: As tourism continues to grow globally, we must all ensure tourism is responsible and delivers positive experiences for both the visitor and for the community where we live and serve. DMOs must commit to work closely with city leadership and local agencies to bring the issue of sustainable tourism to the forefront and then shape as well as establish policy or infrastructure that balances the needs and interests of both residents and visitors in popular areas. DMOs must adapt strategies that regularly educate and inform visitors about experiences that strike a community-visitor balance. To strike that balance, solves can include highlighting new and upcoming neighborhoods as an attempt to lure and attract visitors to undiscovered and underserved parts of a destination. L.A.’s geographic landscape puts us in a unique and favorable position. Unlike some destinations, which may have one tourism corridor, our horizontal layout and distinctive fabric of neighborhoods – all worthy of visits by tourists – lessens the impact.
It’s also important to continue executing strategies that educate the community about tourism’s economic benefits – the impact on local jobs, businesses and taxes – to strengthen tourism sentiment locally. Los Angeles Tourism recently administered a survey asking Los Angeles residents about their sentiment towards tourism. We found that the overwhelming majority of our city residents have a very positive opinion relative to the importance of tourism in Los Angeles and that ‘overtourism’ is currently not a significant issue.