Remove barriers to boost tourism

Remove barriers to boost tourism

In the “Golden Age” of tourism, the travel industry needs to remove as many obstacles as possible to attract visitors and the money they spend.

That was the message that Traverse City native Jonas Neihardt, the senior vice president for government affairs at Hilton Worldwide, delivered at the July meeting of the Economic Club of Traverse City.

Hilton has more than 5,000 hotels in 104 countries and employs 350,000 people at its properties.

A 1983 graduate of Traverse City Central High School, Neihardt began the discussion on “New Models of Travel and Tourism” by talking about coming full circle in his professional voyage.

“I used to be a waiter in this dining room,” Neihardt told the packed room at the Traverse City Golf and Country Club, which included his parents and classmate Carl Ganter, Circle of Blue founder and former Economic Club guest speaker. “It`s a life moment to come back here as the guest speaker.”

Neihardt closed his speech with anecdotes on three islands Iceland, Sri Lanka and Hainan and how those lessons might apply to Traverse City.

Promotion has helped Iceland grow its tourist traffic by 33 percent, tops in the world. Plagued for years by civil war, Sri Lanka has embraced travelers with hotel construction. Hainan, the southern-most point of China, has become a “medical tourism” destination, which could be another driver for northern Michigan.

“I`ve been all over the world with Hilton and there`s no place like Traverse City,” Neihardt said.

Neihardt said small tweaks to the way tourism operates can have a significant impact.

“Little things can make a big difference in this industry,” he said.

An example of removing barriers was lobbying the United States government to make it easier for international travelers to come to the United States. Neihardt said 18 percent of international travelers chose the U.S. as their destination before the 9/11 terrorist attack. Restrictions instituted after the attack reduced that number to 11 percent.

“It wasn`t because they didn`t want to come we didn`t let them,” he said.

The figure climbed to 13.3 percent in 2016, but Neihardt said it could be better, considering that Chinese visitors to the U.S. spend an average of $7,000 per person per visit after air travel.

Reducing the time it takes to get a travel visa from China to the United States down to five days and making visas eligible for 10 years instead of 1 year also would help attract travelers from East Asia, who were instead heading to Europe.

Domestic travel in the United States rose 1.2 percent from 2015 to a total of 2.2 billion person-trips in 2016. Neihardt said Michigan has shown a 3.8 percent increase in domestic tourists from 2013 to 2014.

“We usually rank in the top 10 to 15 most visited places in the United States,” Neihardt said.

He added that 93 percent of travel spending in Michigan comes from the United States.

“There is a lot more out there that we could be capturing,” Neihardt said.

Neihardt said tourism can be made more attractive by embracing digital technology.

He said one Hilton guest complained about a broken air conditioner on social media instead of a phone call to the front desk. Hilton monitored the post, sent service to the room and repaired the air conditioner without speaking to the guest who returned to social media to voice their satisfaction.

“Encourage people to connect, capture and share,” Neihardt said.In the “Golden Age” of tourism, the travel industry needs to remove as many obstacles as possible to attract visitors and the money they spend.

That was the message that Traverse City native Jonas Neihardt, the senior vice president for government affairs at Hilton Worldwide, delivered at the July meeting of the Economic Club of Traverse City.

Hilton has more than 5,000 hotels in 104 countries and employs 350,000 people at its properties.

A 1983 graduate of Traverse City Central High School, Neihardt began the discussion on “New Models of Travel and Tourism” by talking about coming full circle in his professional voyage.

“I used to be a waiter in this dining room,” Neihardt told the packed room at the Traverse City Golf and Country Club, which included his parents and classmate Carl Ganter, Circle of Blue founder and former Economic Club guest speaker. “It`s a life moment to come back here as the guest speaker.”

Neihardt closed his speech with anecdotes on three islands Iceland, Sri Lanka and Hainan and how those lessons might apply to Traverse City.

Promotion has helped Iceland grow its tourist traffic by 33 percent, tops in the world. Plagued for years by civil war, Sri Lanka has embraced travelers with hotel construction. Hainan, the southern-most point of China, has become a “medical tourism” destination, which could be another driver for northern Michigan.

“I`ve been all over the world with Hilton and there`s no place like Traverse City,” Neihardt said.

Neihardt said small tweaks to the way tourism operates can have a significant impact.

“Little things can make a big difference in this industry,” he said.

An example of removing barriers was lobbying the United States government to make it easier for international travelers to come to the United States. Neihardt said 18 percent of international travelers chose the U.S. as their destination before the 9/11 terrorist attack. Restrictions instituted after the attack reduced that number to 11 percent.

“It wasn`t because they didn`t want to come we didn`t let them,” he said.

The figure climbed to 13.3 percent in 2016, but Neihardt said it could be better, considering that Chinese visitors to the U.S. spend an average of $7,000 per person per visit after air travel.

Reducing the time it takes to get a travel visa from China to the United States down to five days and making visas eligible for 10 years instead of 1 year also would help attract travelers from East Asia, who were instead heading to Europe.

Domestic travel in the United States rose 1.2 percent from 2015 to a total of 2.2 billion person-trips in 2016. Neihardt said Michigan has shown a 3.8 percent increase in domestic tourists from 2013 to 2014.

“We usually rank in the top 10 to 15 most visited places in the United States,” Neihardt said.

He added that 93 percent of travel spending in Michigan comes from the United States.

“There is a lot more out there that we could be capturing,” Neihardt said.

Neihardt said tourism can be made more attractive by embracing digital technology.

He said one Hilton guest complained about a broken air conditioner on social media instead of a phone call to the front desk. Hilton monitored the post, sent service to the room and repaired the air conditioner without speaking to the guest who returned to social media to voice their satisfaction.

“Encourage people to connect, capture and share,” Neihardt said.

(c) 2017 – The Tripoli Post Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info)., source Middle East & North African Newspapers