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International Showcase Draws Buyers From 15 Countries

Atlanta- Nearly 80 buyers and journalists from 15 countries joined 300 destination representatives in attending the fourth edition of the Travel South USA International Showcase in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 30-December 3. This was the first time the event had been held outside the cities that make up Rhythms of the South: Atlanta; Nashville, Tennessee; and New Orleans. That three-city group is a partner in promoting and hosting the annual international marketplace.

“Our hosts in Charlotte and North Carolina have done a superb job of extending our reach with this year’s event,” said Travel South USA president and CEO Liz Bittner. “Charlotte has a growing international inbound presence, and North Carolina has long had a sophisticated approach to these markets. We’re very pleased with this week’s turnout.”

Travel South USA is building a comprehensive approach to international marketing on behalf of its member states. In an opening session for travel industry delegates from the organization’s 12 member states, a succession of speakers reiterated the significance of the international market.

“We are seeing the effects of a growing global middle class,” said Scott Johnson of Travel Market Insights. “International visitation to the U.S. will grow by 20 percent from 2014 to 2020. This is being fueled by overseas growth, not Canada and Mexico. We’ll see huge increases from markets like China, the United Kingdom, Japan and Brazil. And the South is seeking to capture at least 10 percent of that visitation.”

“Brazil is the seventh-largest economy in the world,” said Jose Madeira, of Tourism Brazil, who represents Travel South USA in that country. “In 2014, 2.3 million Brazilians came to the U.S. and spent $13 billion. By 2020, that number will be 2.7 million visitors. The United States is the first international destination Brazilians visit. They come as couples, as families and in groups, and are huge shoppers.”

Geoffrey Hutton with Kent Marketing in Sydney represents Travel South USA in Australia.

“We joke that Australia is a very convenient market,” he told the group. “We’re 25 hours from everywhere. We’re a huge country, but 66 percent of Australians live in major cities, so we’re influenced by American television. Australians get 4-to-6 weeks of vacation and will spend $5,000 in the U.S. on an average trip. They travel year-round, and two-thirds of them become repeat visitors.”

Daniel Chen, with East West Marketing/Lion Tours, addressed the surging China market.

“In 2014, 109 million Chinese travelers went abroad,” he said. “The United States is their dream vacation. It gives them bragging rights in China. The new generation of Chinese speak English. Currently, around 3 million come to America annually. By 2021, 7.3 million Chinese will come to vacation in the United States.”

Over the course of the three-day event, nearly 3,000 appointments took place between Southern destination representatives and inbound tour operators or receptive operators. Following the conference, 60 international tour operators and journalists took part in eight different post-FAMs covering North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Next year’s event will take place in Atlanta, November 27-30.