The iconic city of Charleston, South Carolina, drew nearly 400 delegates to Travel South International Showcase, November 27-29, including 110 international travel buyers from around the world.
“Our international inbound program is surging,” said Liz Bittner, the organization’s president and CEO, during a marketplace session. “We now have six in-country project managers representing key markets like Australia, China, Brazil and most of Europe. In the last six months, we have participated in 26 sales events outside the United States, and in June, we took 24 sales professionals to Australia.”
Travel South USA has become a close partner with Brand USA and has redirected its international web presence to that organization’s website.
“We now have 23 different suggested road trips on that site in eight different languages,” said Bittner. “Travelers worldwide are using www.visittheusa.com.”
Tristan Freedman, director of business development for Gate 7 in Australia, is an in-country rep for Travel South USA, and said that the South is Australian tour operators’ fastest-growing destination.
“The average Australian will spend three weeks on a trip to the United States,” he said. “Traditionally, those trips have been to markets like California, New York and Las Vegas. But air service drives this market, and today, Qantas is offering service between Dallas and Sydney, United is offering service between Houston and Sydney, and Air New Zealand is flying to Houston five times a week.”
“The idea of a Southern road trip is very appealing to Australians,” he said.
Daniel Shen of East West Marketing Corp., based in Shanghai, said that traditional travel patterns for the immense Chinese market are evolving.
“Many years ago, had someone asked us if we could bring Chinese to the South, we would have said no,” said Shen. “Today, that answer is very different.
“The biggest drivers of the market from China are travel agents and social media. There are 20,000 travel agencies in China, and each may have 300 to 1,000 customers. They are all using the Chinese social media platforms Weibo and WeChat. There is a huge travel community that shares its experiences instantly.”
Shen said the United States remains the top bucket-list destination for Chinese travelers. Five percent of the country’s 1.3 billion citizens now have passports, and 2.8 million came to the United States in 2016.
“Delta will begin direct daily flights between Shanghai and Atlanta on July 31,” he said. “That will begin to change the travel dynamic into the South. We’re promoting 30 different itineraries with Travel South USA, so the prospects for growth from China are very strong.”