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This year’s annual ASTA conference, held Sept. 7-9 in Los Angeles, featured, for first time ever, two sessions focused on the Hispanic market. The sessions are part of a joint initiative between ASTA and the National Tour Association (NTA) to make those in the travel industry aware of the growing buying power of Hispanic consumers. The two sessions were sponsored by the Mexico Tourism Board.
“The goal of this initiative is to get every aspect of the tourism industry to tap into the Hispanic market. This will open up the market to everybody and not just Hispanics,” said Olga Ramudo, president and CEO of Express Travel of Miami and chair of the ASTA/NTA Hispanic Initiatives Committee. “Just as everyone is targeting the Hispanic vote, it’s time for our industry to target the Hispanic traveler.”
The first session, held on Sept. 8, was titled “25 Reasons Why Hispanics Are Important in Growing Your Travel Business” and much of the session focused on a wide range of statistics related to the overall Hispanic market in the U.S. One of the session presenters was Kirk Whisler, president of Western Publication Research, Inc., a corporation that includes Latino Print Network, a national advertising sales program representing more than 625 Hispanic publications and other media. The publications that Latino Print Network represents have a total circulation of 19 million and are used by 57 percent of the Latino households in the U.S. on a weekly basis.
Some of the statistics that Whisler shared included the fact that the purchasing power of Hispanic market is more than $1.2 trillion. In addition, Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. and the vast majority of Hispanics are born in the U.S. — and can therefore travel. The income of Hispanics is also growing faster than any other group and they are buying homes faster than other demographic groups. And, while many populations are aging, the fastest growing segment of the Hispanic market is under 30 years old.
Whisler also pointed out that businesses don’t necessarily have to market to Hispanics only in Spanish.
“The Hispanic market is a bilingual market,” he said. “Sixteen percent live in an English-only world, 16 percent live in a Spanish-only world and the vast majority live in a bilingual world where both English and Spanish is used.”
Other participants in the session included Laura Rodriguez-Verbera, of Marina Tours and Travel, based in Arizona, and a member of ASTA’s Board of Directors; Laura Mandala, CEO of Mandala Research; Jaime Silva, president and CEO of the International Aviation and Travel Institute; Jose Rene Gomez, of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance; and Maria Gross, president of Marke Travel International.
The following day, the Hispanic Caucus brought together professionals, executives, organizations and thought-leaders involved in the Hispanic tourism market. The goals of the caucus were to “meet and connect with industry colleagues involved in Hispanic tourism; discuss trends, challenges and opportunities in Hispanic tourism; exchange strategies, insight and ideas meaningful to the marketplace; and build a coalition of NTA and ASTA Hispanic tourism leaders, members and delegates.”
Ramudo once again led the caucus, which featured a keynote presentation by Glenn Llopis, CEO of the Center for Hispanic Leadership.
The presentation by Llopis focused on demographic patterns and attitudes, and how companies can invest in this market.
“Industry marketers must authentically create a connection between their industry and brands and with Hispanic consumers based on the cultural nuances that trigger engagement and their decision to invest,” said Llopis.
The caucus concluded with suggestions and personal accounts by audience members and the promise of continued exploration on how to better reach Hispanic travelers.
“Our goal here is to get more Hispanics traveling, grow our businesses and create jobs within our industry,” said Ramudo. “We are here to make history.”
The next meeting of the Hispanic Caucus will be held in January at NTA’s annual convention.