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Inbound Operators From 17 Countries Attend Travel South

Travel South International Showcase drew 430 participants to New Orleans December 1-4, including 125 international inbound tour operators from 17 countries. This is the third International Showcase and completes a full cycle of events held in three cities that are industry partners in the inbound travel organization Rhythms of the South: Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans.

“After three years of International Showcase, our Southern suppliers are becoming so much more attuned to the international market,” said Travel South USA executive director Liz Bittner afterward. “They understand now where receptive operators fit into the mix and they understand that this is a regional effort. They are working together in pods to really showcase new product possibilities to these inbound operators.”

Inbound travel into the United States is currently showing strong growth as travelers from Australia, China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, western Europe and other regions of the world come to America. Travel South member states now host more than 2 million overseas guests, about 7 percent of the overall business into the country. Bittner and her board hope to grow that percentage in the years ahead.

“There is some very good news for destinations in the South on this front,” speaker Scott Johnson of Travel Market Insights told the group. “International travelers who visit the South currently spend 16 of 26 days on their trip in the South. They visit 2.4 states on average compared to seeing only 1.4 states when visiting other regions of the country. Once they come here, they want to get out and see as much as they can.”

BRIC Marketing Group speaker Jason Pacheco shared insights about four of the most sought-after markets in international travel today: Brazil, Russia, India and China.

“China will account for 100 million outbound travelers across the world in 2015,” he said. “Many will come first on a tour, then come back on an FIT [independent packages]. India will account for 50 million passports by 2020, and this market has many business and family ties to the U.S.

“Brazil showed 17 percent growth as a travel producer into this country in 2013,” he said. “They account for 3 million visitors here, and they love shopping, dining, nightlife and fly-drive packages.”

Matt Grayson, executive director of the Receptive Services Association of America, told attendees that international visitors to the United States “accounted for $180 billion in revenues in 2013, creating a $57 billion trade surplus and 1.3 million jobs.”

“They also spend 4.7 times as much money on vacation as domestic travelers and spend 2.5 times as long on their trips,” Grayson said.

More than 4,000 12-minute appointments were held over the three days of meetings in New Orleans, a city that is well known to international travelers worldwide. New Orleans and Louisiana hosted evening events at Mardi Gras World and Latrobe’s, a French Quarter entertainment venue.

“It takes a village to be successful internationally,” Bittner told delegates at a networking breakfast at week’s end. “Thank all of you for being here to help us bring the world to the South.”

The 2015 International Showcase will be held November 27-30 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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.