Black Meetings and Tourism

July/August 2014

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B M & T ••• July/August 2014 ••• 26 Ernest (Ernie) Wooden, Jr., a long-time senior hos- pitality industry executive and Los Angeles- area resident since 1999, was been named president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board (LA Tourism), in January of 2013 Wooden has spent his entire career in the hospitality industry, including more than a decade in senior leadership positions in both global brand management and operations with Hilton Hotels Corporation. As executive vice president, Global Brand Management for Hilton, based in Beverly Hills, CA, he led all worldwide branding ini- tiatives for the well-known hotel corporation, working with 3,000 prop- erties in 80 countries. His operations roles at Hilton included oversee- ing territories in Mexico, the Caribbean and across the U.S. Recently, Wooden spoke to Black Meetings & Tourism about his work at Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board and the develop- ments taking place in the LA area. Q: From where are you going to be drawing these new visitors? A: I think it's a combination of domestic and international. But we have a particular natural advantage because we are the gateway to the Far East. For example, China has become our number one overseas market. We will enjoy in excess of 530,000-540,000 Chinese tourists in LA this year. That number is going to go up sig- nificantly. Outbound Chinese tourists [from China], number about 100 million right now. They're the number one tourists in the world. They've jumped ahead of the Americans and the Germans. And their main destination will be Los Angeles. There is an affinity for Los Angeles. They love Los Angeles. They know a lot about us and our lifestyle from the movies. So to answer your question, not new markets, but markets that are there to be exploited are the Asian markets. And it's a natural for us. So we intend on growing our presence in China. Q: You have also mentioned that you would be launching a new affinity market- ing effort. Can you elaborate on that? A: We've got several markets that we believe are ready to be expanded here. One is our LGBT market. We think that it's a natural for us with our folks here in Los Angeles, and that's a big market that we want to exploit even more. We're on the forefront of pushing for gay marriage – for equal marriage here in California, and especially here in Los Angeles. And we want to show respect for people, because we want people to love whomever they want to love. And LA s all about that. We're about creativity. We're all about self- lessness in terms of people's inalienable rights. As far as we are concerned this is a civil rights issue, and we promote the fact that people should have the right to love and marry whomever they want. So that's one affinity market that we want to grow. Another affinity market that we want to grow s the African-American market. We've done some wonderful things, like hosting the NAACP and the 100 Black Men here. Many church organizations have also met here in Los Angeles. But we feel there's room to grow. Because in my background I know this mar- ket is significantly larger than what we've been able to attract. Not just a little bit larger, but significantly larger. So like any other mar- ket, we are trying to think about what are the things that motivate that market. How they make decisions? What are the accou- trements that you must bring to the table in order to have them enjoy being in Los Angeles. And so we've spent some time talking to some culturists, and some Black historians here in my office to help us think about local places within the area of Los Angeles that African-American business meeting attendees would like to visit. And so I've got folks helping me develop more attractive brochures and putting together tours. And so we're trying to think about how we are going to get more of what I think is an 8 billion dollar market. But I want to get more of that business for Los Angeles because we have so many natural things that would appeal to that market. Not only our history, our focus on equality, our historical focus on diversity – we speak 110 languages here. But there are so many things about Los Angeles that this market doesn't know that I think would be attractive. We have 105 museums in Los Angeles. We have more theater compa- nies in Los Angeles than they do in New York, including Broadway. And of course we've got the best weather in the world. We are the center of every cultural beginning that the country enjoys, from music to art to epicurean to painting, it all begins here. Fashion, the- ater, even slang begins here in Los Angeles. So we think these things are appealing. They're multiculturally appealing, but we have a bunch of unique assets that would appeal to the African-American market. We're focused on a carefully laid out program. We're inviting people that we think have some expert- ise in this area to help us noodle this and we're going to develop tac- tics and strategies to support it over the next several months. Some A CONVERSATION WITH ERNEST WOODEN ,JR. PART II Q & A BY SOLOMON J. HERBERT

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