IHG CEO Keith Barr Will Depart

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Skift Take

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at tourism influencers, IHG’s departing CEO, and Hawaii’s tourism frustrations.

Good morning from Skift. It’s Monday, May 8. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

Social media influencers have become more powerful in marketing in recent years, with a growing number of companies looking to tap into their sometimes-enormous reach. That list includes destination marketing organizations, or tourism boards, that are developing more sophisticated marketing strategies for influencers as part of their plans to attract tourists, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. 

Habtemariam writes what influencers say about travel can have more clout than other types of advertising. San Francisco Travel CEO Joe D’Alessandro said the words of an influencer are more trustworthy for many people than an ad the organization may air. A 2022 Pew Research survey found 53 percent of social media users purchased something after seeing an influencer they follow post about it. 

Habtemariam notes destinations are increasingly shopping for suitable influencers instead of just waiting to receive pitches from them. Discover Puerto is launching a request for proposal for an agency to assist with its influencer marketing strategy. Chief Marketing Officer Leah Chandler said the quality of influencers is much higher than compared to five or 10  years ago. Meanwhile, the U.S. national tourism marketing agency Brand USA has a program that loans out trusted international influencers to partner destinations. 

Next, InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Keith Barr announced on Friday he’s stepping down after six years at the helm, Skift co-founder Jason Clampet and Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy report.

Barr cited family as the reason why he’s leaving his post at the UK-based company. He said during IHG’s first-quarter earnings call that the time was right to return to the U.S. considering his daughters will be studying in the country. Barr, who joined IHG in 2000, added he has been living outside the U.S. for roughly 20 years. IHG’s Americas CEO Elie Maalouf will succeed Barr effective June 30. 

IHG reported that its first-quarter revenue per available room, an important industry metric, was up nearly 7 percent from 2019 levels. The company received a boost from its average daily rates rising 10 percent from pre-Covid levels.

Finally, the Hawaii Tourism Authority will have fewer resources for its marketing efforts amid widespread frustration in the state with the industry. The agency has been excluded from the state budget, writes Global Tourism Reporter Habtemariam. 

Habtemariam reports the Hawaii Tourism Authority now has to request funds from the state’s budgeting and finance department. The governor and legislature will have to approve any funding requests. Habtemariam adds the state government will ensure the agency focuses more on destination management instead of marketing. Lawmakers in the Aloha State recently came close to passing a bill that would have dissolved the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

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