Year end is a traditional time for taking stock—looking back on our achievements and challenges during the past year—and looking ahead at some of the trends that will undoubtedly shape our future.

2018 was a very good year at The Lou Hammond Group. The travel industry as a whole experienced another strong year, making a significant impact on the overall economy. Our firm continued to grow with new clients, new employees and, yes new challenges.

A highlight of the past year was the opening of our Houston office to expand our reach in the booming Texas/Southwest markets. We made our mark there with new clients and with some exciting projects for the Houston Space Center.  As a fifth generation Texan, I was particularly proud to see The Lou Hammond Group take up residence in my home state.

Crisis communications was in the forefront in 2018. We were saddened by the many hardships people experienced as a result of wildfires, hurricanes, storms and other disasters. All of these occurrences were also major media events generating extensive local, national and even international coverage. I am proud to report that members of the LHG account team and crisis communications specialists jumped in immediately to assist our clients and proactively manage media coverage.  In December 2017, the massive Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara County burned approximately 281,893 acres, at the time becoming the largest wildfire in modern California history. Managing local, regional and national media coverage, our two-pronged approach was to provide critical updates on the current situation until the fires were completely contained; and we outlined a post-fire communication plan targeting major media outlets.

Before we could even implement the second phase, a mudslide devasted Montecito in Santa Barbara County. Again, our approach was to monitor media coverage and provide updates as events unfolded. In February, we worked to mitigate the long-term impact of the disaster, through targeted interviews and a media events in Los Angeles resulting in nearly 40 million total readership on the recovery effort.

Following a similar multi-phase approach, our team also helped manage messaging and media coverage for the Sonoma Wildfire Recovery and the Redding Wildfires in July 2018. Post-fire “open for business” messaging was targeted for media, website and social platforms helped Redding tourism experience a faster-than-expected recovery despite additional wildfires in the region.

The list goes on…Hurricane Michael that nearly devasted Panama City, FL…an alligator attack that killed a resident in the Sea Pines South Carolina community…a toxic Red Tide on Florida’s Paradise Coast.  Lessons learned: be immediately available; be honest and responsive during the crisis; provide updates on post-crisis recovery; mitigate the long-term impact on business and tourism through proactive outreach to local, regional, national and social media.

Can you believe, hard for me but…Lou Hammond Group celebrated a significant milestone on December 1—the 35th Anniversary of the founding of our firm with three employees and three clients in a small office in mid-town Manhattan. A lot has changed since then, but our founding principles and ideals remain much the same. The revolution in technology and the digitization of communications may have changed the way we deliver messages. But the basics of good communications are the same as when the firm was started 35 years ago – tell a good story; provide valuable content; act with integrity and produce results.

Electronic communications are no doubt the wave of the future. But we still believe in building relationships and the value of face-to-face communications.  A case in point was our very successful ‘Love on the Road’ media blitz for our client, the Virginia Department of Tourism. Eight tourism travel partners fanned out over a two-day period to conduct 20 desk-side interviews with top New York media representatives. In a follow-up survey, all of the travel partners were extremely satisfied with the tour and the results it produced. Our friends in the media were also very pleased with this technique – respecting their busy schedules, delivering a good story and building relationships for the future.

Bloggers and influencers will continue to play an important role in the communications mix. But we see a bigger emphasis on trust and authenticity. Micro-influencers may not have as big a following as famous celebrities and spokespersons, but they may have more ‘influence’ and credibility with the people you need to reach. In 2019, expect to see posting of more videos and podcasts that engage the target audience and start a conversation on social media platforms.

The forecast for 2019 is for another strong year for the travel industry.  Perhaps the most encouraging trend we see is that people are craving a personalized travel experience. As one blogger aptly said, ‘gadgets will not replace humans in delivering a memorable travel experience.’

As we get ready to turn the page on the calendar to 2019, all of us at LHG want to wish you a very Happy Holiday season and a Joyous New Year.

And now see below for 35 fun LHG facts to celebrate our 35th Anniversary!

1. Lou Hammond is, in fact, actually a woman.

2. Our Chairman is a 5th generation Texan, and now we have an office in Houston!

3. Lou used to ride her canary yellow bicycle to the PanAm (now MetLife) building to work for 10 years.

4. LHG’s first client was Auberge du Soleil, the resort in California and the Spanish Tourist Office.

5. LHG received their first fax machine in New York City in December of 1987.

6. Lou’s favorite color is orange. Where did it originate, you ask? When opening the company, Lou gave a Royal Crown Derby Red Aves coffee cup to the printer. She said “match it” and that color has been our signature color for 35 years.

7. When we secured our first telephone number, it was decided it had to be lucky. Knowing the Chinese believe 8 is the source of all good things, although it took a day at the telephone company, we secured 308-8880. Not everyone can have four 8s, but we did it!

8. Three of Lou’s four Dachshunds have been mascots for the brand and important members of the team. All called Presto, the first one was Italian, and the current is Presto Arbe (four in Arabic.) They make a difference in office life.

9. Style was key in establishing the company; Lou wanted our offices to have the warmth of a home. That thinking is still alive today. We have proven that period furniture and Oriental carpets can carry the day and also look great with 21st century technology.

10. Lou loves to cook, collect recipes and is even published in cookbooks!

11. Lou can pack for 3 weeks of travel in a carry on, even when she has two black tie events to attend!

12. Lou has visited 93 out of 195 countries.

13. Stephen, Lou’s son and CEO of LHG, was born in Beirut, Lebanon.

14. NYC President – a 32 veteran – began his career at Sea World and worked on the launch of the first baby Shamu.

15. Lou did the first media tour with Paul Hogan aka Crocodile Dundee.

16. CHS President began her career as a Clinton administration intern.

17. Lou always travels for vacation between Christmas and New Years – this year, it’s Guatemala.

18. A Lou life tip: Don’t lie down with dogs, then you won’t get fleas.

19. Red hots have been available in all offices since 1985 – Why? because we are a “red hot” agency.

20. Daniel Boulud calls Lou his American mom – an early part of agency life was introducing him to America.

21. Lou believes that perhaps one of the changes that has impacted our industry most is writing: the correction of typing mistakes. First there was need for a good eraser, along with chalk to blur the mistake, followed by another eraser for the carbon page copies that proceeded to “white out” that needed to dry. And now today, the computer corrects all!

22. Our CEO, Stephen Hammond, was born on New Year’s Eve.

23. Yes, Lou has always been fussy about on-time performance, coming from the airline industry, she was taught never to be left at the gate!

24. Lou lived in Lebanon for five years and speaks working Arabic.

25. Lou has an extensive list of famous recipes that circulate through the office including bourbon turkey, decadent chocolate cake and more.

26. Our LHG resolution for next year = an LHG cookbook!

27. Lou’s biggest pet peeve is when people call non-stop flights, direct – direct means through service with a stop!

28. Lou never reads a publication where she doesn’t see at least five client placement opportunities.

29. A Lou PR tip: Good accounts make good friends.


30. Lou launched Ms. Deneuve’s fragrance. Lou thought she looked swell until photos proved the star is Catherine!

31. We’re going to take these last few facts to share some of Lou’s favorite hobbies:

32. Collecting Recipes

33. Playing Bridge (a game where you never stop learning, just like life!)

34. Appreciating her vintage clothes – she hopes to always be able to wear them.

35. Above all, running a successful agency!