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Duluth Hosts TAP Dance

Nearly 200 delegates representing destinations from throughout the world joined more than two dozen Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) tour companies for three days of tour development discussions at the 2016 TAP Dance event in Duluth, Minnesota. The theme for this year’s event — “TAP is Superior!” — highlighted Duluth’s scenic location as an inland shipping center on America’s largest Great Lake.

“Duluth has been a great partner for us this year,” said Stefanie Gorder, TAP executive director. “Lake Superior and all of the North Shore destinations in and around this remarkable city combine to create one of America’s favorite travel destinations. We’ve really enjoyed learning more about this area.”

TAP has engineered one of the industry’s most innovative approaches to travel marketplaces with its use of destination pods. Groups of seven to eight destination representatives join tour operators to discuss packaging entire areas instead of selling just one attraction or hotel. The approach offers interested tour operators a big-picture approach to selling an entire destination.

“Hosting this group really opens up opportunities for our destination,” said Julie Atkinson, senior sales manager for Visit Duluth. “Our shipping heritage originates from the lumber baron era of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and we still ship iron ore and grain extensively out of Duluth. We are the largest inland freshwater port in the world.

“We also host cruise ships,” said Atkinson. “It’s always great to see a pearly-white cruise ship come through here with all those cargo ships. We still have people stop what they’re doing just to watch the ships come through.”

Two of Duluth’s most-visited attractions served as sites for two evening events: the Railroad Museum at the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center and the Great Lakes Aquarium. Historic railroads and trains shipped lumber and other products to the busy port during the lumber baron era, and the aquarium highlights the marine life of the region, including walleye, the local favorite fish for diners.

Gorder said a couple of TAP’s newer member programs are getting a lot of attention currently.

“Tap Into TAP on Tuesdays has developed a dedicated audience of travel agents and other sales influencers for our online webinars,” she said. “Every week we feature a new destination, and we offer in-depth education about the area and how we serve it.

“Our Guild program is generating travel metrics for participating states and regions. We have different levels of participation for destinations that include customized travel metrics that help them to track their group business with us and measure their effectiveness in the group market. We partner with the American Bus Association to produce those results for them.”

TAP Dance 2017 will take place in Tucson, Arizona. For details, visit

Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.