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Wit Tuttell: Shine Locally, Sell Globally

Wit Tuttell is enjoying the exposure his state gains from a rare “double” by hosting the Travel South International Showcase last month in Charlotte and the upcoming Travel South Domestic Showcase this March in Winston-Salem. In the span of four months, North Carolina will be the beneficiary of hosting hundreds of buyers from both markets.

“I think it’s a unique opportunity for us,” said Tuttell, Visit North Carolina’s executive director and a board member of Travel South USA. “We’re well known already as a domestic group destination, but we’re building our international business as well. This event in Charlotte will go a long way in defining us as a destination with international tour operators and receptives.”

The Charlotte-Douglas International Airport already has direct service from Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada, and visitors from China are arriving there via flights through Atlanta. Tuttell also pointed out that Delta Air Lines is launching daily nonstop service between Paris, France, and Raleigh-Durham International Airport in May.

Tuttell knows he has one of the country’s most acclaimed states for diversity of appeal. North Carolina is well known for its mountains in the west and its Atlantic Coast in the east. But it’s the state’s Piedmont region between the two that will host these two prestigious industry events.

“Most people don’t realize that the Piedmont region is the most visited region in the state,” said Tuttell. “Not only do we have several major cities there, but there is a lot of great outdoor appeal to this region as well. I’m looking forward to sharing that in Winston-Salem in March. I think delegates will love its arts and culture, its Moravian history and its urbane atmosphere.”

One of the city’s most recent accomplishments in that regard is the conversion of the lower floors of its old R.J. Reynolds building into a contemporary Kimpton Hotel. Once the tallest structure in the South, the Art Deco office building was constructed in 1916 and was the architectural prototype for the Empire State Building in New York City built 15 years later. Within weeks, Kimpton’s Cardinal Hotel will offer 174 rooms and 36 suites on its first six floors.

Tuttell said that groups can easily do an entire trip in North Carolina just by traveling east to west to enjoy its coast, cuisine, history and mountains, but he thinks the regional emphasis he and his colleagues are promoting downplays that mind-set.

“Travel groups who want to see the Smokies are probably combining us with Tennessee and Georgia,” he said. “Groups that are doing the coast may be combining us with Virginia or South Carolina. That’s the beauty of what we do collaboratively through Travel South USA.”

Tuttell cites economy of scale as one of the biggest advantages the organization brings to its 12 member states.

“The first example of that would be World Travel Market in London,” he said. “That’s a huge event for us, and if we did it alone, we’d have almost no image or branding capability at all. We just couldn’t afford it. But by going with our partners in Travel South USA, we create a huge impact. We’re very visible with tour operators that serve the South’s largest inbound market. It makes a tremendous difference for us.”

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.