Effort aims to help industry target Hispanics

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ASTA and the National Tour Association (NTA) are preparing a wake-up call for the industry, alerting executives and frontline travel sellers alike to the potentially huge, but largely untapped, Hispanic travel market.

Olga Ramudo is chairwoman of the ASTA-NTA Hispanic Business Development Task Force, created earlier this year, said she is motivated by the Hispanic market’s potential for growth and economic stimulus.

OlgaRamudoThe group’s plan starts with activities at the autumn ASTA and NTA meetings. In the longer term, the plan turns to an education program and an ongoing commitment to improving the industry’s ability to reach the Hispanic market.

Ramudo, the president and CEO of Express Travel in Miami, represents both organizations on the task force. ASTA and NTA have four representatives each.

Ramudo said she was first alerted to the potential, and missed opportunities, upon seeing several sets of data. The 2010 Census, for example, showed that the Hispanic population grew by 43% in the previous decade, four times the nation’s 9.7% growth rate, to now account for 16% of the population.

In addition, she said, a Nielsen report released in April forecasted that Latino buying power in this country, at $1 trillion in 2010, will reach $1.5 trillion in 2015.

While she said other studies show Hispanics don’t travel at the same rate as Americans overall, she nonetheless believes travel marketers are not realizing the potential that is there.

She said it is also important to understand that Hispanics often travel in large numbers, “with grandmothers and grandfathers.”

“When I go to New York for Thanksgiving, there are 19 of us,” said Ramudo, a Cuban-American.

Nor is the group-travel tendency found only in family travel. She recalled a series of ski tours her agency operated. From year to year, the numbers grew exponentially until she was arranging charters. She said that in one season, her group included 75 non-skiers, because people just wanted to travel and vacation together.

“It’s an industry dream to get them traveling,” Ramudo said.

As soon as she brought her concerns to the attention of the trade groups, she said, Ramudo found herself chairing the task force, which first convened at Mexico’s Tianguis Turistico conference in Puerto Vallarta in March.

Next up will be a Hispanics in Travel Caucus sponsored by ASTA and the NTA, to be held Sept. 8 in conjunction with

ASTA’s Travel Retailing and Destination Expo in Los Angeles.

Ramudo said the caucus would be a by-invitation event, but she said interested industry members can get themselves invited. She said the caucus is meant to be a brainstorming session across all industry segments to address the challenges and opportunities presented by an underdeveloped Hispanic travel market.

In an indication of the importance of the Hispanic market, three airlines — American, United and LAN — have already confirmed their attendance. It’s been years since airlines have been much involved in ASTA-related activities. Two GDSs, Amadeus and Sabre, have also confirmed they will attend.

In addition, there will be a panel discussion at the ASTA event, designed to highlight for agents the size and value of the market, she said. A similar session will be part of the NTA conference program, set for January in Orlando, targeting tour operators.

Meanwhile, Ramudo said, ASTA and the NTA have commissioned an outside firm to create an education module on reaching and selling travel to Hispanics. The specialty course will be available after the ASTA September meeting, she said.

Ramudo said she believes the various initiatives can “create jobs, help the U.S. economy and provide a boost for our industry.”

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