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Friday, 17 January, 2020, 14 : 00 PM [IST]

Endeavour is to build on decade-long foundation of trade engagement to social & digital space for direct consumer reach: Visit California

Caroline Beteta, President & CEO, Visit California, the organisation that is entrusted to market Destination California of the USA in international markets, has said that after investing consistently on travel trade engagement for a decade after establishing a representation office in India 10 years ago, the endeavour now is to build on that foundation and move into social and digital media space for more direct engagement with the consumers.

Beteta was speaking exclusively to TravelBiz Monitor on the sidelines of the first-ever stand-alone Sales Mission by Visit California in Delhi this week. She was part of the high-end business delegation led by the Eleni Kounalakis, Lieutenant Governor of the State of California, comprising chief executives from aviation, finance, consulting, hospitality, IT, tourism and entertainment industries of the Bay Area of California.

“The difference now is on optimising our travel trade foundation that we built over the years through our representation office here, and moving into opportunities in the social and digital space to reach the consumer directly.  That’s a key for us now,” she said.

Visit California launched a social media campaign, “Now it is time for California’, as part of the messaging that the destination promoters want to send out that it understands the Indian market better than anyone else.

Beteta also stressed on the importance of a “synergised approach” with the “non-stop” airline partners to “support them in increasing the airlift” and “help them operate the existing frequencies with optimum capacities.” “We hope to see more non-stop flights between the destinations to keep the momentum going, and create a snowball effect of additional access and more airlift,” she informed.

Sharing the key findings of a recent consumer insight study undertaken by Visit California, Beteta said that while consumers in India carry a “positive” sentiment about the destination, and the endeavour is to “capitalise on it and convert it into real action”, Indian trade and consumer are still not familiar “with entirety of California.”

“We have a hub and spoke strategy to make sure that the travel trade is aware of the diversity of the destination. Our Sales Missions are a key in that direction. We also invite travel trade partners to visit the destination to experience it first-hand. Our online technical training platform is also a step in that direction,” she added.

She also spoke on the “regional strategy” which would help sell the destination based on the profile and tastes of the travellers. While Northern California can appeal to travellers who look for “laid back luxury”, the Southern side could be presentable to “bleisure” market that wants to combine business with leisure. Similarly, the Western side of California is good for “film production and laid-back luxury,” and the East could make sense for “trade and product development-oriented” travellers.

While millennial travellers are the target segment for Visit California globally, Beteta said that they will make all efforts to lure the luxury market to California in the next five years.  She cited the presence of CEOs of destinations like Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood in the sales mission to underscore the same. “We expect the luxury market to grow 70% in the next five years,” she stated.

Talking about the trends from India, Beteta said that Indian travellers are more adventurous and confident compared to other nationalities, they stay longer and per capita spend is the highest in the destination. An estimated 3.53 lakh Indians visited California last year and spent USD 1.1 billion at the destination. Visit California expects the growth to continue at 5 to 6% year on year. One-fourth of Indian travellers to the US, end up in California, she said.

She said that the key challenge is the visa regime and reducing the waiting period for processing. The peak waiting period could be drastically reduced in cities like Chennai, Kolkata, etc. due to constant lobbying by the destination promotion agencies with the federal partners.
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