Richard Swanson is the Pacific South Regional Network Director for the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service.
Werner Escher (right) receives the Peace Through Commerce Medal Award from then-Acting Deputy Under Secretary of International Trade Ken Hyatt (center) at the IPW Tourism Summit in June 2013. At far left is Roger Dow, President of the U.S. Travel Association.
It is no accident that guests travel from countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, or regions like Middle East to seek out top brands, fashion, and dining in the United States.
Werner Escher has understood this for four decades. As the director of domestic and international markets for South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., Escher has implemented a strategic plan to cater to international visitors.
His efforts have made South Coast Plaza a major shopping destination for foreign visitors to Southern California, and he was recognized this year by the Department of Commerce with a Peace through Commerce Medal.
“The number one activity of people who travel is shopping,” Escher explains. “We chose to expand South Coast Plaza’s global reach and in so doing placed the retail sector as an integral part of attracting in-bound travelers to the United States.”
That is a customer base that continues to grow. Travel and tourism exports experienced a seven percent increase in the first half of 2013 over the same time period in 2012, totaling $87.1 billion.
What began as several modest promotional trips to Japan in the 1970s blossomed into a truly global marketing effort. In 1987, South Coast Plaza launched its “California Dream Promotion,” one of the largest overseas promotions in the history of the state. It put the shopping center on the map next to other Southern California attractions like movie studios, amusement parks, and zoos.
South Coast Plaza now actively markets in a half-dozen countries, and its foreign language assistance program has translators that speak more than 40 languages.
South Coast Plaza has recently turned its attention toward the growing number of visitors from China. Escher has teamed up with the U.S. Commercial Service to conduct training sessions for retailers on hosting visitors from China, and has spearheaded South Coast Plaza’s annual Lunar New Year celebrations, drawing visitors from China and throughout Asia.
Further solidifying the role of retail in tourism promotion, South Coast Plaza has also actively supported the Orange County Tourism Council’s new China marketing office that opened in Shanghai earlier this year.
South Coast Plaza annually welcomes more than 22 million visitors and a significant number are from overseas. According to Escher, approximately one-third of South Coast Plaza’s annual travelers come from the visitor market segment. South Coast Plaza’s gross sales, approaching $2 billion, is among the highest in the United States and supports thousands of American jobs.
South Coast Plaza has become an important tourism promotion asset in Southern California, contributing to the marketability of the region as a key destination for international visitors. Escher and his team work with the Orange County Tourism Council, the State of California and Brand USA to promote tourism to the United States from across the globe.
In June of 2013, Werner Escher was recognized for “exceptional vision and leadership in growing travel and tourism for the United States in support of President Obama’s National Export Initiative” when he was presented with the Peace through Commerce Medal by then-Acting Deputy Under Secretary of International Trade Ken Hyatt in a ceremony at the International Pow Wow (IPW) Tourism Summit in Las Vegas.
Werner Escher and the South Coast Plaza are excellent examples of the clients that ITA’s Commercial Service help expand their exports and increase their revenues.
Whether you are exporting travel & tourism services, or another product or service, please contact us to find out how we can help your firm achieve success in international markets!