Exclusive ‘mini international airport’ for Middle Easterners - GulfToday

Exclusive ‘mini international airport’ for Middle Easterners


The ‘Visit California’ delegation to the Middle East led Caroline Beteta (left) at The Loft in Dubai Opera.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Middle Easterners who plan to have their holidays in the US sunny Golden State of California will have the chance to experience going through their “own mini airport” at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board president and CEO Ernest Wooden Jr. told Gulf Today: “I already asked some of the tour operators (here) to develop a package for (this amenity).”

Wooden is a member of the first-ever high-level delegation “Visit California Middle East/UAE Mission” headed by Visit California president and CEO Caroline Beteta.

The other seasoned hospitality players delegation members  are Visit California Board chairman/Montage International-Operations executive vice president James Bermingham, Beverly Hills Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Julie Wagner, Orange County Visitors Association president and CEO Ed Fuller, Santa Monica Travel & Tourism CEO Misti Kerns, West Hollywood Travel & Tourism Board president and CEO Tom Kiely, Newport Beach & Co president and CEO Gary Sherwin, and Visit Santa Barbara president and CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes.

Visit California is a non-profit organisation with the mission to develop and maintain marketing programmes.

Beteta introduced the delegation to the media on Wednesday evening at The Loft of Dubai Opera: “We see some headroom in this region. We anticipate 264,000 Middle Easterners in 2019 after the declines in 2017. We are looking at 300,000 visitors from the region by 2022 who, we project are going to spend about $763 million.”

She said that apart from other programmes like “Kidifornia” that welcome diverse tourists from around the world, the delegation has also started tailoring luxury travel for the Middle East.   

Interviewed, Wooden explained “Kidifornia” is a result of a two-year study conducted by the state government of California which showed that children, specifically of the millennials, having become a force to reckon with when it comes to the family travel decisions.   

He added every country aspires to reach out or target the luxury travelers because the segment is the “lucrative market.”

Wooden mentioned of the exclusive mini international airport within LAX when asked how Los Angeles county has strategized for this specific market, as it is a dictum by California authorities to keep the state a global premier tourism destination.  

The mini international airport, operational in the past one-and-a half years, is owned by a London-based private company.

On an annual membership for a fee, its clients will experience how the rich-and-famous Hollywood stars get in and out of the international airport away from the madding crowd as they will go through exclusive Immigration and Customs procedures.

The clients will be whisked off to their California abodes by chauffeured-driven ultra-luxury cars such as the Bentley. For their departures, these cars would drop them off exactly “at the foot of the staircase to the aircraft.”

Wooden is no stranger to the luxurious travel requirements of Middle Easterners having been in the hospitality industry since age 16 who rose to the rank of Hilton executive vice president responsible for 10 global brands until about five to six years back.

“There is a lot of wealth in the Middle East. Families travel by 35 to 40 members including nannies. They (holiday) for between one and two months.”

Referring back to ultra-luxury cars, Wooden mentioned of a Middle Easterner who asked the car agent to get for him a brand new Bentley to replace the one presented to him with “5,000 miles.”  

As top-of-the-line hotels and inns are continually being constructed in Los Angeles, the city also boasts of  branded as well as outlandish shopping complexes and 110 museums, one of which is the J. Paul Getty Museum with over $100-million worth of valuable treasures in there such as the original “Lilies” by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh.

The City of Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development strives to bring economic growth and job creation to the city by attracting conventions and tourists.

The mission of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board is to advance the prosperity of LA’s visitor economy and the livelihoods that depend on it.

This is achieved by sales and marketing to the principle segments of both the domestic and international travel trade and consumer. In particular, LA Tourism represents the L.A. destination to the meetings and convention industry nationwide; the international travel trade and traveler; the cruise passenger and cruise lines; the domestic leisure traveler; as well as the worldwide travel media.

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