by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | April 17, 2019
Several years ago, when umbrella hospitality company Preferred Hotels & Resorts was seeking a new opportunity in the travel industry, it settled on destination representation. With a solid global marketing and sales team in place representing a portfolio of over 750 properties in 85 countries, the Chicago-based company (founded in 1968) decided the moment was ripe to focus on growing tourism in emerging markets and launched its newest division, PHG Consulting
Today, PHG Consulting has an executive sales and marketing team of 16 and a roster of six clients that includes destinations in Africa, Central America, China, Mexico and the Middle East, including such offbeat locales as El Salvador, Uganda and Guadalajara, Mexico. Santiago Gonzalez Abreu, PHG's vice president of development, Latin America, spoke with exclusively with Northstar on his company's inroads into tourism consulting and destination marketing.

Why do you think PHG Consulting brings to destination representation that others established companies don't?
We bring a holistic approach. There are a lot of companies focused on doing PR or advertising. We do an integrated approach to marketing, and not every destination is ready for this kind of approach. We select what destination we think will be a good match for our strategies, so that they can be successful. So I guess you could say we are not looking to just add clients. It's about working with the right destination, growing the results and driving tourism to them.

Which of your destinations do you think is ideal for group business?
Actually, we are representing Guadalajara as a destination and being very specific on driving group sales. They have a huge convention center, great hotels and properties, and they have been lucky enough to host worldwide congresses. Right now we are working on a new project with them, producing leads for business out of the U.S. We represent the state of Jalisco and the ministry of tourism, and we are working with the Guadalajara Convention & Visitors Bureau (https://guadalajaramidestino.com/). They have always had good business out of South America, but now they are focused on the U.S., where companies like Hewlett Packard, IBM and major medical companies have offices in the city. And we are expanding that focus to inbound business from Europe, like incentives and small groups from 300 to 500, whose companies already have a footprint in Mexico.

What other under-the-radar destinations are you looking at?
Honduras is a new client. It is an incredible destination that attracts thousands of visitors every year. I admit we need to break some barriers when it comes to perception of security and educate clients on the benefits of the destination. Lots of big cities, like Chicago, have problems but also are major convention destinations. So we are saying, yes, Honduras may have issues, but it also offers great solutions, and its value proposition allows meeting planners to do a lot more with their program. It's also important to know we don't just sell you the destination and then you are on your own. We train the local DMCs and gives them better business practices, so we are bringing together the entire destination proposition for the client.

What do you want meeting planners to know about PHC?
We want to be that boutique, one-stop shop where planners can find those unique destinations and integrated solutions for their programs. Yes, we want the recognition on the destination level, but we also want to be trusted on the meeting planner side, and being a part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts is a good reference point to have.