Promoting California Dreaming
By Kwon Mee-yoo
The sparkling eyes of Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of the California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC), shine with ideas and passion to promote California and the United States.
As a native Californian, she was eager to share her favorite places with future visitors to the state.
“I like the outdoor regions of California, too. The High Sierra area including Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain are great for skiing with beautiful scenery. Of course, California is not complete without the famed Highway 1, the beautiful coast drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco,” she added.
The CTTC is putting emphasis on drawing more Korean travelers, after the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was granted and that’s why Beteta is visiting Korea.
"We think the Korean market is at the point of just starting to take off, frankly," she said.
The statistics show the increase of Korean tourists to California. Korea was the Golden State's fifth largest overseas market with 277,000 visitors in 2009. The CTTC expects an increase of 9 percent in 2010 and another 5 percent in 2011.
The CTTC sees these as benefits of the Visa Waiver Program and the relatively weak performance of previous years was a result of the worldwide financial crisis.
Since Korea is one of the most advanced countries in information technology, the CTTC puts effort in their online promotions in Korea. It operates two Korean websites ㅡ the main page offers facts and information, while "Hotel California" features celebrities and bloggers telling stories about the Golden State.
The CTTC is targeting young professionals in Korea and appointed actor Lee Byung-hun as their honorary tourism ambassador.
"We think he is the bridge to this target market and his adventurous spirit aligns with California," Beteta said.
Leading US tourism
Beteta is going to tackle promoting tourism in a broader sight ㅡ in other words, at the national level. She was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of the new Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP) last week.
The CTP was established by U.S. President Obama's Travel Promotion Act, to market the country as a vacation destination. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) fee from international visitors and matching funds from private industry will finance the corporation.
"The administration is focused on creating jobs and the travel and tourism industry is one of the best ways to quickly create jobs when you bring in foreign visitors, increasing demand for labor-intensive services such as hospitality," she said. "So it's a great job-making machine and travel and tourism affects every region, state and community throughout the U.S."
Beteta said that the U.S. tourism industry employees number some 1.8 million, more than twice that of the automotive industry and regarded as an economic engine of the country.
"The Asia region will be critically important for the CTP. We feel the potential is there," she said. "I'm sure that Asia will be a priority market for the CTP, once the organization gets up and running."
According to Beteta, individual organizations and destination's marketing companies in the States promote their respective products, but none of us were promoting under the "American" brand.
"But if perspective Korean travelers aren't thinking about America, they will never make it to California. It's CTP's responsibility, first and foremost, to promote the desirability of the American brand," she said.