Indian American Sima Patel, the chairwoman of California Travel and Tourism Commission and the CEO of Ridgemont Hospitality, recently visited India on behalf of Visit California’s attempts to lure Indians to the state through digital marketing.
While she was in Delhi and Mumbai, Patel spoke about promoting California as an “affluent, chic and luxury destination among well-heeled Indian travelers,” adding that about 3,000 Indians visit California annually and spend over $700 million, which she hopes will cross $1 billion by 2020.
“This is our first entry into the B2C market. The digital platform is a highly efficient medium. We work closely with Google, Facebook and YouTube because they all have their headquarters in California. We see a lot of opportunities to coordinate our digital initiative with them,” Caroline Beteta, the president and CEO of Visit California, told TravelBiz Monitor.
Beteta also told TravelBiz Monitor that Visit California will be identifying “brand ambassadors” and “social influencers” in the market to communicate “the messages that resonates the experiences and the level of comfort Indian travelers” can look at in California through these digital platforms.
Visit California also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Producers Guild of India to encourage more Indian film producers to shoot their movies in Californian locations, so at least the Indian movie stars can visit California.
Patel has achieved quite a bit for a Gujarati woman from back in the day, “typically within the Gujarati community, women were not taken seriously back in those days and even today many don’t recognize my achievements,” Patel, 54, told the Economic Times.
Being the wife of a motel owner and having worked in the motel since she came to the United states in 1979, Patel loves to speak about her heritage and her early days, “I am part of all important decisions, including new project development, financing and choosing construction companies. I am the driver and visionary,” she told the Economic Times adding how she moved to her current position within the family business.
She also feels that by having a woman in charge at Ridgemont, the company has an edge over other Gujarati-owned hospitality businesses in the U.S.
The company has just started their biggest project so far, a greenfield, 121-room Hampton Inn in downtown Oakland, near San Francisco, a project which Patel herself initiated.