US shopping malls: Not interested in tourists from Arabic speaking countries?

Of course US Shopping malls love shoppers from anywhere.

US shopping malls:  Not interested in tourists from Arabic speaking countries?

Of course US Shopping malls love shoppers from anywhere. America’s Premier Shopping Places represents the second largest mall operator in the United States, General Growth Properties (GGP) and is paid to promote business from tourists shopping at GGP malls.

Shopping and US inbound travel and tourism – it is a synergy that has always worked hand in hand for most major players in the travel and tourism industry.

This is true for almost all established travel and tourism destinations in the world. A lot of focus is put on getting visitors, specifically high-spending travelers, into their shops. For the United States, shopping by foreign tourists is a good part of the country’s export, in states like Hawaii it may very well be the number one export and job creator.

Shopping usually has no borders, no discrimination by race, gender or nationality – but it appears this may be changing in the United States – or those in charge of marketing really don’t care, or worse they simply don’t get it.

General Growth Properties, operates famous malls around the country, some mostly catering to tourists, including the Fashion Mall in Las Vegas and the largest shopping center in the South Pacific, Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu.

Some of the big spenders at US high-end stores are travelers from the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia.

eTN reached out to Kathy Anderson, in charge of America’s Premier Shopping Places. They are frequently exhibiting at international travel and tourism trade shows, including IMEX, the World Travel Market, and ITB.

eTN had received a request from a major airline sponsor to identify suitable malls and shops for high-end shoppers from the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia, some of them interested in private showings.

Surprisingly the first call to American Premier Shopping Places was received with the response that they are too busy to talk and to call back tomorrow. The next day the response was more positive, but Kathy Anderson was still not available to talk. She promised to call back.

After another two days and no return call, a third call was made which said it all: “America’s Premier Shopping Places was not interested in such shoppers and saw no need to discuss this issue with eTN.”

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When asked if this was specifically due to not wanting business from shoppers visiting from Arabic countries, there was no further reaction.

The response – or better no response – was surprising, taking into consideration this airline was looking for a major cooperation to bring thousands of travelers to high-end American shops.

eTN did not want to take NO for an answer and contacted General Growth switchboard operators at their headquarter in Chicago.

That response was even more unprofessional. eTN was told twice the switchboard only has an alphabetical list of names for people working for General Growth, but not a list of departments and could not transfer the call.

When eTN asked to speak to the CEO the company, Mr. Sandeep Mathrani, the name had to be spelled twice to the switchboard operator. The operated said, “Such a person does not work for the company,” and he had no idea who the CEO was. He was “just working for the company switchboard.”

eTN did speak to the company’s media spokesperson Kevin Berry. Mr. Berry did not think General Growth Property member malls cater much to travelers or had a major role in the travel and tourism industry.

eTN did reach out directly to some high-end shops leasing space at various General Growth malls – and the interest was tremendous. Two shops had put trust into GGP and suggested to also contact America’s Premier Shopping Places, since they are providing marketing services for the mall.

A refreshing but more general statement was received by Scott Creel, Senior Marketing Manager of member mall Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. He related his comments through their PR agency, Stryke Weiner, in Honolulu. “As a world-class shopping center, Ala Moana Center welcomes customers from all parts of the world. Our marketing efforts focus on the local market as well as Hawaii’s major visitor markets, including North America and Japan, but we also greatly appreciate the business from customers visiting from other countries around the globe.”

It appears our second assumption is true. The United States is very much welcoming high-end shoppers also from the Arabic-speaking world, but some marketing pros are happy with their bonuses and paychecks – and don’t really care.

After all the marketing people work for a huge company, and their names are only one out of many names on the phone switchboard.

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