ONSITE: Conference Buzz Focuses on Increasing International Travelers

ANAHEIM, CA-Travel 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 AngelesInternationalAirport'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, Stuttgart, Germany and in the RomeInternationalAirport, which will be the 300th Hilton Hotel.

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