“I love it.” Simple enough, and it’s the answer to the question that INBOUND asked Howard Clark, area director of travel industry sales, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, as to why he prefers the Connect Travel portfolio of boutique travel trade shows above other larger events well-known to international travel and tourism industry sales and marketing professionals.
We touched base with a number of such individuals at Connect Travel’s RTO Summit Florida last week in Orlando and put to them the question of just why they prefer the Connect’s RTO Summit series, which are held annually in February, April and October in Los Angeles, New York and Orlando, respectively. All three feature one day of educational and informational presentations and discussions and a second day comprised of business appointments between travel suppliers and receptive tour operators.
There are usually some 50 operators and approximately 100 U.S. travel suppliers—the majority of them from DMOs—at each event.
For Clark, the buyer-supplier ratio is just right, he told us, as he is able to see everyone that he wants to see. He expects it to be the same next spring when he attends the RTO Summit East in New York. It was also one of the reasons that he took part in this past August’s Connect Tour (a domestic market trade show) in Lexington, Kentucky. He is particularly interested now in the next RTO Summit East in New York, where his company has a property that will be easier to introduce to clients and potential clients.
Overall, he told us, he takes part in six or seven Connect Travel events each year. While the number might not be as much for the sample of individuals INBOUND surveyed last week, their reasons for doing so are related. Here are the reasons given to us—from the people who gave them.
—Julie Payne, group sales consultant, Hershey—the chocolate amenities she brings along have made her an extremely popular Summit goer—goes to all three Summits and, she says, they enable her to make contact with receptive tour operators in Los Angeles, the greater New York City area and Orlando. In this way, she is able to see, talk with and do business with buyers in the thee U.S. cities where receptives are clustered.
—Mike Prejean, supervisor, Louisiana Office of Tourism, believes that he has attended every RTO Summit, explaining that the three events anchor his international marketing calendar, which includes major overseas events and IPW. While a necessity, the latter, he explained is so large that it is impossible to make face-to-face contact with all of the buyers he would like to see. But, he advises, “you’ve got to do them all (the Summits), because the right people are not in every city.”
—Dennis L. Swayne, business development manager, Blue & Gold, is based in San Francisco, but has found that attending the New York and Florida RTO Summits (in addition to the Los Angeles edition) have their own particular logic for attending. For example, he explained that three key receptive tour operators who bring travelers from India to his attraction all attend the RTO Summit Florida, enabling him to have business appointments with companies that anchor his business from the India market.
—Also based in San Francisco, Estelle Miller, director, tourism development, Hornblower Cruises & Events, has a travel schedule is as busy as that of any travel and tourism professional but, she told us, the RTO Summits in Los Angeles and Florida enable her to see receptives that she might not be able to make contact with very easily at larger international trade shows. And while she does not attend the RTO Summit New York, the company has part of its fleet there, along with sales and marketing professionals who can attend it.
—Alfredo Gonzalez, a long-time veteran of the travel and tourism industry who based in Florida, but who has clients in different parts of the U.S., finds that he can represent clients with smaller budgets at Connect Travel’s RTO Summits rather than at the costlier IPW or other large trade shows.
—“You don’t need all the fluff that you’ll find at the larger shows,” says Jesus Garcia, manager, international sales, Atlanta CVB, adding, “I like the Summits because their size allows us to see all the right people with a minimum of distraction.”
—A reminder: The next Connect Travel event is the Connect Travel Marketplace, February 19-21 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida.
The Connect Travel Portfolio of Events includes: The Connect Travel eTourism Summit; Connect Travel Marketplace; Connect Travel Marketing Leadership Summit; Connect Tour powered by Connect Travel; Connect THRIVE Summit; Connect Travel RTO Summit West; Connect Travel RTO Summit Florida; Connect Travel RTO Summit East; Connect Travel Active America China Summit; and Connect Travel Active America China Receptive Edition.