ONSITE: Conference Buzz Focuses on Increasing International Travelers
April 24, 2007
By: Dan Butcher
Agent was on site at the International Pow Wow where attendees heard suppliers'
plans to lure more international visitors to the United States. Matthew Hart,
president and COO of Hilton Hotel Corp., who discussed trends in global travel
and the growing, changing worldwide hospitality market, delivered the keynote
address. Addressing concerns that the U.S.'
share of the international travel market has dipped since 9/11, Hart suggested
that the U.S.
needs to make itself more welcoming to international travelers. "Loyalty
comes about when people feel welcome and appreciated," Hart said. He went
on to predict a global tourism boom due to changing demographics, market-based
economics and low airfares, among other factors. However, the U.S. has its
work cut out for it, he stressed, saying that slow visa processing and
"slow-as-molasses security" are preventing many international
visitors from feeling welcome. He added, "The hunger to extend and receive
human kindness is not a fad." Coincidentally, processing renovations are
underway at Los Angeles International Airport's
international terminal. The renovation of the Tom Bradley International
Terminal broke ground in February and is expected to be complete by March 2010.
The $723.5 million project is considered the largest in the history of LAX and
calls for major interior renovations, including the installation of an in-line
checked baggage security system and a second boarding gate to accommodate large
aircraft. Meanwhile, Hilton's Hart also discussed the groundbreaking of The
Waldorf=Astoria at Bonnet Creek and the Hilton
Bonnet Creek Hotel, part of a resort development adjacent to the Walt Disney
World Resort in Orlando, FL. The total cost of the project will
exceed $500 million, and the opening is scheduled for late 2009. Hart also
mentioned the opening of the 126-suite Homewood Suites by Hilton in Agoura Hills, CA,
owned and managed by Dimension Development Co.; it is one of 180 Homewood
Suites by Hilton nationwide. Hart also mentioned new properties opening across
the pond in Florence, Italy,
and in the Rome International Airport,
which will be the 300th Hilton Hotel.