Digital transformation emerging as a critical catalyst for the revival of travel industry: Seema Kadam
The Regional Director - India of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board speaks about Los Angeles welcoming back visitors and how the destination remains committed to the Indian market.
Seema Kadam, Regional Director - India of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board had an insightful conversation with BW HOTELIER where she talked about the safety and health regulations, relevance of the Indian market, and the future of travel. Excerpts:
Los Angeles is officially reopened for groups of all sizes. Can you tell us about the steps being taken to ensure health and safety while welcoming back the travellers?
Seema Kadam: In Los Angeles, we are proud that while we may not have been the first destination to reopen, we are committed to being the safest one. As we continue to welcome groups to the city, the health of our residents and visitors will remain our top priority.
At indoor venues with more than 5,000 guests, verification of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test is required. At outdoor events like festivals, parades, sporting events and concerts, with over 10,000 participants, verification of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test is recommended.
Los Angeles became the first destination in the United States to receive the new health and safety verification badge from Forbes Travel Guide and Sharecare, certifying that all hotels with 50 or more rooms have verified health security. Los Angeles Tourism has also forged a partnership with CLEAR Health Pass to safely welcome group business back. Meeting planners and event organisers booking business to Los Angeles can receive priority access to Health Pass, creating a seamless and expedited entry to events that prioritises confidentiality.
How significant is the India market for Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board? Are you targetting MICE or leisure travellers from India in days to come?
SK: Prior to the disruption to our industry, India represented one of the fastest growing markets for Los Angeles. In 2019, 135,000 Indians visited Los Angeles and injected $301 million in visitor spending to our local economy. Though our primary focus in this market is the leisure traveller segment, we have seen substantial interest and numbers from the MICE segment too. With an impressive number of large venues and hotel inventory that allow for creative events in unique indoor and outdoor spaces, there’s a lot attractive for groups in Los Angeles. This includes a diverse hotel landscape featuring 991 hotels and 98,000 hotel rooms, ranging from value to trendy to luxury and highlighting endless meeting options – from unique only-in-LA venues to the 720,000 sq ft convention centre and the LA. LIVE entertainment complex.
Our recent partnerships such as CLEAR Health Pass allows us to address the most critical components of event safety. We want our clients to know the environment they are coming into is safe and that everyone has demonstrated the same level of commitment to health.
What are the initiatives taken to boost Indian travellers’ confidence?
SK: When the time is right, we can’t wait to welcome Indian travellers back to our destination. As Los Angeles welcomes back visitors, we feel optimistic about the city’s resiliency and ability to protect visitors’ health. With widespread vaccinations and protections like pre-departure testing for international arrivals in place, confidence in travel is reviving. To make vaccines even more accessible, Los Angeles International Airport offers free one-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccinations on-site to all adults over 18.
How have you ensured to develop and nurture long-term relationships with strategic clients in India?
SK: Los Angeles remains fully committed to the Indian market. Los Angeles Tourism continues to be the only US destination marketing organisation with full-time staff overseas. This includes our fantastic team members based in Mumbai. To help Indian trade partners understand our destination, we are offering a refreshed version of the LA Insider training programme, found at insider.discoverlosangeles.com. This B2B platform highlights Los Angeles with three chapters and educates the travel trade on selling and promoting Los Angeles. We have a dedicated B2B FB page to keep the travel trade updated on what’s new in the destination as Los Angeles is a creative destination that is always evolving. Moreover, we are working closely with partners like Brand USA and the travel trade in India to ensure that itineraries are structured and customised to suit Indian travellers’ tastes and demands.
Post-pandemic, what are the changes in your marketing strategies?
SK: Though the shift to digital has been in place for some time, digital transformation is emerging as a critical catalyst for the revival of the travel industry in the aftermath of the pandemic. We have adapted our strategies accordingly to ensure that our message reaches the target audiences. For our travel trade partners, we are continuing to focus on educating and inspiring via online meeting platforms until we are able to once again have in-person interactions.
How do you envision the future of travel in the coming years? When do you think tourism will likely to be back to the pre-Covid level?
SK: The future of travel is bright for Los Angeles and there is much to look forward to in our city. A decade of unforgettable sport events is underway with our state-of-the-art venues including SoFi Stadium, which will welcome fans for the first time this year and host the Super Bowl in 2022. The arts and culture scene is back with new offerings including The Academy Museum which will open its doors in September which will tell the stories of moviemaking through immersive and dynamic exhibits. And there are more accommodations options – 17 hotels will open their doors this year. Our data indicates we will reach 80 per cent of our 2019 visitation in 2021 with a full recovery expected by 2023 with 100 per cent of our visitation back at 51 million visitors.
Around The World