Is terrorism hurting travel? Tourism exec brings answer to exclusive Dallas summit
IMAGE: Travelers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. (Tom Fox/Staff Photographer)
Terrorist attacks, even as they seem to come with mind-numbing regularity, do not reduce global tourism over the long term.
That point, made by the top executive with a global tourism group, will be reinforced this week when the heads of some of the nation’s largest travel and tourism companies and agencies gather in Dallas for a two-day think-fest.
That conclusion is important for North Texas, which is increasingly marketing itself as a global destination.That point, made by the top executive with a global tourism group, will be reinforced this week when the heads of some of the nation’s largest travel and tourism companies and agencies gather in Dallas for a two-day think-fest.
The invitation-only Global Summit of the World Travel & Tourism Council, set for Wednesday and Thursday, is expected to bring together key leaders in the tourism industry including Bill Marriott, executive chairman of Marriott International, and Barry Diller, chairman and senior executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Expedia Inc.
The group of about 700 also will hear from at least eight tourism ministers from countries including Mexico and Zimbabwe.
In advance of the annual summit, returning to the U.S. for first time since 2011, the head of the council spoke this week with The Dallas Morning News about the buoyancy of the global traveler and the implications of terrorist hits for the $2.23 trillion travel and tourism industry.
“The European and the American travel are far more resilient than perhaps they were 15 or 20 years ago,” said David Scowsill, the global council’s president and chief executive. “They’re not going to let people get in the way of their planned vacations.”
Similar to Europeans planning a vacation “you will find the American travelers will probably be switching away from the cities and the countries that have had this terrorist attack problem in the past 12 months and will be visiting other places. They’ll go to Spain, they’ll go to Portugal. They’ll go to Italy,” he said.
“There’s nothing we’re hearing that there’s a large amount of cancellations or people overreacting in that sense, but clearly there will be some switching of destinations to places that the consumer thinks is more trusted or more secure.”
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Orlando-area tourism businesses use IAAPA to make international pitches at home
Claire Evans’ supply of natural and synthetic theming materials, like bamboo, fencing and thatching can be found around Orlando’s theme parks.
Her company, amaZulu, is among several Central Florida tourism businesses looking to make an international name for itself at this year’s International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions show. That’s why her booth stands out with a small thatch-roofed hut with colorful paper lanterns hanging from the center support.
“We’ve had a lot of international people, probably more so this year than any year I can remember,” said Evans.
Evans said she’s already had a 20 percent increase in the number of leads and future clients compared to last year’s show. The amaZulu president has been attending IAAPA, which ends Friday at the Orange County Convention Center, for more than a decade.
The annual expo took over the convention center’s north and south concourses with the installation and display of more than 1,000 exhibitors. Booths display a little bit of everything, from small ones with new food trends and treats to large ones with fully-functional amusement park rides and zip lines.
The traffic can be attributed to the fact Orlando and America knows how to do theme parks, Evans said.
“The theme park industry is completely new to a lot of different countries,” she said. “What better place to learn than America?”
Marty Desrochers, president of Kissimmee-based Operation: Pineapple, said any international growth would have a direct impact on his Florida operations.
“My company is one that, as it grows, I can hire more people in Florida and send them to the different locations to coach and to train,” he said. “It becomes growth inward in Florida, as well, as we grow outward.”
Desrochers’ most recent client is the Brevard Zoo, for whom Operation: Pineapple provides technological services and training to. His company helps existing attractions learn how to repackage their products to, essentially, upsell visitors and inform them of additional options available at the destination outside of the general admission ticket.
“It really helps to focus their attention on one particular product at one time,” he said, hoping to turn connections into his first big break into the international tourism market.
John Barbieri, director of project development with Orlando-based Freeze Frame, said his company once had a bigger footprint. After shrinking slightly to focus on tech improvements, he’s again looking to grow globally.
“We’ve has a lot of international clients come by,” he said. “They really, really want this right away. It looks like we’re going to be back international here really quick.”
Barbieri’s new Experience Wall is an LED screen that replaces the green screens used at many attractions for photo opportunities.
The screen will consistently display images until it syncs with the camera. The moment the photo is taken, Barbieri said, the screen goes green allowing whatever image to be imposed in the background.
The technology has been tested at the One World Observatory in New York City. It received its patent two weeks ago, said Barbieri, the timing aligning perfectly with IAAPA.
“All the attraction leaders are here, instead of having to reach out to everybody individually or having to go through a national broadcast,” he said. “This is a great way to get it out to industry professionals we want to touch.”