'LA is a social experiment everyone is attracted to': Tourism chief

Ernest Wooden Jr, CEO & president of the Los Angeles Tourism Board and Convention Centres speaks about LA being the first US city to set up a tourism office in India

Pankti Mehta Kadakia
Published: Nov 20, 2019 09:15:26 AM IST
Updated: Nov 20, 2019 10:58:07 AM IST

g_123825_ernest_wooden_jr_280x210.jpgErnest Wooden Jr

Ernest Wooden Jr, CEO & president of the Los Angeles Tourism Board and Convention Centre, says India is going to be one of the fastest-growing markets for the US, and Los Angeles (LA) in particular. They opened their first tourism office in India, in Mumbai, with a soft-launch this August. Edited excerpts: 
Q. What made you set up an office in India?
We are responsible for identifying markets around the world that are prime to generate visits to Los Angeles (LA). About 12 or 13 years ago, we identified China as one of those emerging markets. Very few people came from mainland China to LA then, but today, it is our No 1 international market. We see various similarities in China’s and India’s relationship with LA; we think it's going to be one of the fastest-growing markets for the US, and LA in particular, over the next several years. Year-over-year growth, in the short term, will average about 5 percent per year. This number could explode if we do our work well.

Q. What sort of traveller segment are you targeting from India?
The easy way is to identify the relationship between Hollywood and Bollywood, and cultivate that. But one of India’s greatest exports is education, and we have unbelievable university infrastructure in LA, with USC, UCLA and others, and look forward to having not just students, but also their friends and families visit the city. The one thing that distinguishes this market from the others are flights coming directly into LA, especially from Dubai and other Middle Eastern airlines that are popular in India. The airline competition lowers price for travellers.

Q. You mentioned a lot of business travellers come from India… what sort of businesses are drawing them, beyond entertainment?
The movie business is, of course, an important one. But the larger chip here is technology. Silicon Valley has had the brand identification for a while, but many new startups are occurring right in LA. Biometrics is a big focus area, as is internet security. We see a lot of content startups, and those navigating the 5G space.

Q. How does LA tourism from India compare with that of New York or San Francisco?

Very favourably. The reality is that we are a different experience. Even in California, San Francisco gets cold! LA is one of the most diverse cities in the world, with no dominant ethnicity. It’s like a huge social experiment that everyone is attracted to—particularly millennials—and it shows in the way we think about business, music, the arts, even food. We're confident that once we can identify that segment and get them to LA, they're going to want to come back many, many times.

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