Inbound tour operators, destination marketing organizations and suppliers gathered for “Creating the American Experience” at the IITA 2019 Summit
Each February, leaders of the U.S. inbound travel industry gather to discuss trends, share ideas and best practices, and develop new and unique experiences – all in preparation of being the best at what they do… creating experiences and providing services for international visitors.
Inbound tour operators participate in an annual Operator Forum to identify and discuss critical trends and issues affecting their businesses: emerging markets, growth of MICE travel, quality control through best practices, supplier partners and online booking competition.
This year, the top critical issues identified were how distribution channels are forcing tour operators to change the way they do business and the need for suppliers to understand how to work with inbound operators to develop international business. The latter is already being addressed through IITA’s Inbound Insider Steps to Success program launched late last year.
Steps to Success in Inbound Travel
The Steps to Success program includes a series of seminars and workshops presented by ALON Marketing Group that educates U.S. travel suppliers on the importance of international travel to their destinations and how to grow visitation by working with inbound tour operators. The program has been featured in a number of destinations across the country, and the introductory seminar was offered to supplier and destination representatives at this year’s Summit.
“Our inbound operator members have consistently expressed the value they place on partners understanding their business,” said Lisa Simon, IITA’s executive director. “Those suppliers completing the Steps to Success courses can demonstrate their understanding and commitment to the inbound market.”
While inbound operators generally have online booking capabilities, hotels and other suppliers have outpaced operators in incorporating multiple online distribution channels in their business-to-business dealings. Inbound operator companies range from smaller, family businesses to mega corporations, requiring suppliers to have multiple channels available for their partners. Inbound operators are investing in technology to more efficiently work with their partners, however there continues to be a need for a better understanding of each other’s business to work collaboratively on the best solutions.
These are some of the tough business issues that IITA members come together to discuss and learn about at IITA’s Summit. Of course, the Summit is also a time for business and pleasure.
Operators and suppliers meet in business appointments to develop new products as well as enhance existing partnerships. Perhaps the best way to build those solid partnerships is through the more informal networking and just having fun together.
This year, Visit Savannah hosted the IITA Summit and showcased its southern charm, period architecture, and haunting ghost stories all under its veil of Spanish moss – one of the city’s most memorable features. Next year’s Summit will be held in St. Pete/Clearwater, Florida, February 2-5, 2020.
IITA’s inbound community lead the field in inbound expertise because they have the advantages of specific, industry-focused education; shared best practices; and a network of knowledgeable and experienced experts they can trust.
By Lisa Simon.