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Coming from America: Visit Fort Worth INTERVIEW


MITCH WHITTEN has been a regular visitor to Australia in his role as Executive Vice President of Marketing at Visit Fort Worth. Here, we ask him about living through coronavirus in America and the effect the pandemic might have on tourism between our two countries.

 

We've been extremely fortunate when compared to other countries. How have you found living in America during COVID-19?

Australia has done a great job. One of the remarkable things here, you’re getting to see the heart of so many communities step up and take care of each other.

In both our countries, our tourism industries have been dealt a blow. We share a love for travel and are committed to the long road to reclaim our ability to roam.

 

What effect will the pandemic have on your domestic and international travel?

Like most of the world, our recovery will begin with domestic road trips. Fort Worth is part of a seven million person “metroplex” and Austin, Houston and San Antonio are three to five hours away. People are already starting to move around, to get away for a weekend. But the recovery is just beginning.

International travel will certainly take years to get back to pre-COVID-19 levels. But we are very fortunate that our Dallas-Fort Worth Airport is one of the greatest in the world and well positioned to help lead the way forward.

 

 

You’ve done a lot of work promoting Fort Worth Down Under. Are you worried that you’ll be starting from scratch again post-coronavirus?

Aussies have a great love for Texas...and the feeling is mutual. But we don’t take this for granted. As soon as we are able, we will be back to share our hospitality and a big Texas welcome.

We are keeping ties, for now, with virtual content. Australians are among the international friends visiting our Kimbell Art Museum and listening to the Cliburn piano sessions online.

 

So how will you promote FW once this is all over?

It’s too early to tell exactly. But two things are certain: DFW Airport and American Airlines, which is based in Fort Worth, will help set global standards in clean, safe arrivals. DFW has invested millions in innovation and will be at the forefront of the future.

Second, our hospitality will be as important as ever. Through this crisis you’re seeing the character of each community. I’m so proud of the sacrifice and support in Fort Worth among business, music, restaurants and all the creative arts.

 

 

Do you think the travel industry will recover from this crisis?

Humanity is social by nature and we are driven to discover. As Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Will travel look different? Yes. Have we been set back? Yes. But people are already starting to explore again - even in their own cities. Our first visitors now are locals, finding new parts of their communities they did not know.

 

Are there any positives at all that can be taken from this situation?

Yes. As tourism organisations we are asking how we can help our community rebuild? How can the visitor economy support our local goals? Preserving history. Celebrating creativity. Honouring local heroes.

Some describe this as community-based tourism. And it is a very exciting direction.

 

 

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Written by: Mitch Whitten as told to Jon Underwood
Published: 29 June 2020


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