We Want to Capitalize on Film Tourism, Wedding and MICE Market: Caroline Beteta

California is aggressively expanding its footprint in the Indian market. We spoke to Caroline Beteta, President and CEO of Visit California, who led the US state’s first-ever ‘CEO Mission to India’, a delegation of 10 CEOs representing different destinations and industry partners.

 What is the purpose of your visit?

This is the first ever CEO mission in India that promises to make invaluable relationships and build excitement around the Golden State’s commitment to the Indian market. This visit will provide critical learnings on how we can best prepare our state to welcome Indian visitors as the market continues to grow. We have also signed an MoU with the Producers Guild of India to understand each other’s film production markets, promote tourism from India and increase mutual cultural understanding.

 So is India your top source market?

India is No. 1 market in opportunity perspective in the next five years. In the 2017-18 fiscal, Visit California plans to investment to $800,000 with new tactics to reach the consumer directly through social media, among other things. California has 27.5 percent of the market share from Indian outbound travel market to the US, accounting for 319,000 visitors who spent $706 million in 2016 in the Golden State. We are hoping to see the visitation grow to 41 pc in the next five years, reaching 449,000 visitors and more than USD 1 billion in spending by 2021.

How are you promoting California?

We have done a few collaboration and events with trade agents, influencers and celebrities and our Facebook page already has 40K followers.

Do you see any challenge for Indian travellers?

Earlier airlift was an issue, but now we have a non-stop Air India flight from New Delhi to San Francisco to reach the destination. Qatar Airways is also launching direct routes into California in 2018.

Technology plays a major role in boosting tourism. Would you highlight any new initiative by Visit California?

Our robust and progressive strategy for social media and digital media platforms has helped take best practices to different markets. Our partnerships with Silicon Valley – YouTube, Facebook and Google, has helped us reach out to consumers in India. Our California Star programme to educate travel agents has done remarkably well.

How has the concept of farm to fork evolved in California?

California is the largest producing agricultural state in the US. Farm to fork concept is baked into our DNA. We grow maximum varieties of crops in the world and this culture has permeated into travel and trade as well. Earlier it started with vineyards and has now migrated into other agricultural form like crop cultivation and flower fields. I personally grow lavender in my 120 acre farm close to national forestland.

Can you highlight the top travel trends for 2018?

The focus will be to capitalise on film tourism, wedding and MICE market as these sectors will reshape the industry.

What is your advice to the young CEOs?

The knowledge of digital and social technology is very important and there is no short cut to success. Long term vision is the key to success.

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