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During the 2017 Skift Global Forum in September in New York City, we heard from a host of the travel industry’s top leaders from across every sector. And after first speaking to them on stage in front of an audience of more than 1,100, we took another few minutes with them to get more insight in our backstage Skift Take Studio.
When we caught up with Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board‘s President & CEO, Ernest Wooden Jr., he spoke about a tourism board’s role in using technology to reduce barriers to travel, and how the destination is working to make tourism positive rather than negative for the environment.
“Sustainability is a big issue for us Californians in terms of air, water quality and Earth resources,” he said. “It’s a big part of our DNA and who we are.”
Wooden, who’s been at the helm of the tourism board since 2013 and also has a hospitality background, said tourism can help California’s dynamic environment as it confronts climate change issues.
Some of the worst California wildfires in history occurred last year, and with the state coming off a severe and prolonged drought, climate change and the environment are particularly top of mind throughout the state, including in Los Angeles.
The city wants to make sure that the problem with tourism is not tourism, said Wooden. “We want to make sure the benefits of tourism benefit every part of our society and all of our people.”
Wooden also spoke about the value of tourism boards actively thinking about using technology to facilitate every aspect of a trip.
“Every time there is a barrier to travel there is an opportunity for technology to solve that problem,” he said. “What we’re doing in tourism is trying to noodle that question, how do we reduce the hurdles to travel that families have, that individuals have, that foreigners who speak different languages have?”
Wooden said he was recently at Los Angeles International Airport and noticed an international traveler using the Google Translate mobile app to communicate with airport staff.
“That’s an incident where technology reduced a barrier to travel,” he said. “We’re working very hard at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board to understand those opportunities.”