Midweek catch-up with Visit West Hollywood’s Tom Kiely

Midweek catch-up with Visit West Hollywood’s Tom Kiely

This week we catch up with the president and CEO of Visit West Hollywood Tom Kiely, who came over to Australia recently to promote the trendy city in LA.
He chats to us about the best things to do in West Hollywood, his favourite holiday destinations, his love of the Australian Tourism Board and his dream dinner party.

What’s your main goal for this year?

To maximise visitation and positive economic impact for West Hollywood, especially from major markets such as Australia. Prior to COVID, international travellers accounted for approximately 40 per cent of our visitation and over 60 per cent of our total visitor revenue, so it is extremely important that we re-establish these markets as quickly as possible, hence this trip down.

What’s your favourite thing about working in the travel industry?  

The ability to interact with so many different cultures and people from around the world. I have enjoyed travelling ever since I was a child and this job has allowed me to have a career while enjoying my favourite passion.

How do you like to spend your free time?

My husband and I enjoy hanging out with friends in West Hollywood, trying out new restaurants and bars. We enjoy travelling but due to our schedules, that’s not always easy. Visitors to West Hollywood like to hike up the famous HOLLYWOOD sign or go on bike tours of our city so sometimes we will take our visiting friends on these types of tours.

Have you managed to do any travelling since restrictions began to ease (domestic or international)?

Yes, quite a bit!  I accompanied some of my colleagues to Europe for our dedicated West Hollywood UK trade mission in February plus a Brand USA Mission late in 2021. We attended the ILTM show in Cannes in December. Additionally, I joined Visit California on a trade mission to Mexico City just last month, which was extremely successful. Also, we opened a representation office in Dubai recently so we made a trip to the UAE for that launch. These are all major markets for West Hollywood and shows our commitment to them while re-establishing international visitation.

What’s your favourite travel company, besides the one you work for?

Honestly I think Australia does an amazing job. And I’m not just telling you that because you’re Australian! I’ve always admired the broad and consistent message that your country’s tourism board promotes globally. We now have Brand USA in the United States which I feel mirrors the fine efforts of the Australian Tourism Board.

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the global pandemic hit?

I’ve seen our industry come together in ways not happening prior to COVID. We have determined new and better ways to work collaboratively to accomplish our goals under some very difficult circumstances. I’ve been impressed with our industry’s abilities to shift course as required. It shows that we are far more nimble and creative than prior to the onset of COVID.

What’s your advice for others in the travel industry on coping with the global pandemic?

Find and develop new sources of revenue whether it be from local tourism channels or from new international and national sources. During COVID we tapped into southern California as a market -an area we spent virtually no time or effort in prior to COVID. Our results were very good and allowed our hotels to get business from an untapped source during a very difficult time.

If you could invite three famous guests (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would you choose?

This is perhaps the toughest and most thoughtful question I have received in a while! In no particular order:

1) Conrad Hilton. As Hilton Hotels Corp. was my first employer, I’ve always been impressed with how Conrad Hilton built his company and the innovation he brought to the hotel industry. It would be fascinating to get his perspective on the current hotel industry and the role Hilton has played in it.

2) US president Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt was president during some extremely trying times, not only in the USA but globally. The world-wide economic depression of the 1930’s, World War II etc. He had the opportunity to greatly expand equal rights to African Americans during his tenure (a goal his wife Eleanor championed) but he failed. This goal was of little interest to him. I’d like to talk with him about why equality for all should have been a major goal of his administration especially since his wife worked tirelessly to achieve it. Our county would be in a better place if Roosevelt would have made equal rights a priority.

3) Queen Elizabeth. Just because I would love to meet her! What an interesting life she’s led. Her dedication to her duties as Queen is admirable.

What book and/or TV show can you not get enough of lately?

I have to put a shameless plug in for Selling Sunset! I believe the show is popular in Australia and it certainly is at home too. It really highlights the beauty of West Hollywood. But we also enjoy watching any kind of series where we can binge many episodes at once. We are currently watching a few different series that are filmed in Mexico and Spain. My husband is learning Spanish and this is helping him with his studies. They are fascinating shows and we really enjoy them.

Do you have any travel goals for 2022?

Professionally, it is to reopen as many channels of business as possible and therefore traveling to our major source markets. Now that borders are opening it is imperative we promote West Hollywood in these key markets. Personally, it would be nice to go on holiday this summer but with my work travel schedule I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I’ve always been so impressed that Australians set aside a good amount of time for an annual holiday and I wish we would do the same in the United States. It’s really good for rejuvenating ourselves and I feel makes us better, more well-rounded people.

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