In a sentence: It was Building Back International Travel—One Meeting at a Time, with 2,030 Individual meetings altogether at Connect Travel’s RTO Summit West last week at the Hilton Los Angeles/University City. Here are more than two dozen photo memories of the experience.
Connect Travel’s 2022 RTO Summit Series
The Connect Travel RTO Summit series was created in 2003 and has been tested, improved by hundreds of North American travel suppliers and receptive tour operator buyers who cover all the major and developing international markets.
Connect Travel hosts the buyers and bring them together under one roof, so you spend less to meet with the people who need to know you. Here is a breakdown of this season’s RTO Summit and related events.
● Each RTO Summit program opens with a “Staying Connected” Education Series,a full day of international inbound trends, market intelligence, and panels that feature tour operators talking about their business, offering fresh insights on their booking trends–all designed to make the next day’s appointments most productive.
● One-on-one scheduled appointment sessions on day two take place in an intimate environment, where attendance is limited to buyer/seller ratio of 1 to 1.8—the best in the industry.
● Register now to reserve your place at the RTO Summit West on March 22-23 at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City. Details here.
● By the time you read this, it is probable that the RTO Summit East/ February 28-March 2 in New York City could be a sellout. Details here. Also, co-located with this event are the Connect Travel Marketplace Summit (Details here) and Connect NYC (for meeting planners) for NYC Travel Week in partnership with NYC & Co. All events will take place atthe Westin New York at Times Square.
● More information to come on the RTO Summit South. Specific dates and agenda details are TBA/TBC. More info here.
TourOperatorLand.com Partner of the Week: Visit Sarasota
Sarasota County is a picturesque destination. Its autumn sunsets rival the most alluring colors of autumn leaves. Walk barefoot on its beaches to thoroughly enjoy one of these farewell to summer sunsets. Then decide tomorrow’s adventure as you enjoy your evening culinary delight. This is Sarasota on Florida’s Gulf Coast—where any season can be your favorite time to visit!
Ideas for First Timers:
—ANY Sarasota County Beach – Enjoy the sunset! Will you see the Green Flash? Drum Circle at Sunset is popular at several beaches on varied days.
—Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
—Paddleboarding, Kayaking or Canoeing
Ideas for Repeat Visitors:
—Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Verified Destination Contact
Verified Destination Contact
Following is a sampler of some of Visit Sarasota’s royalty fee photos available at TourOperatorLand.com.
For more information on Visit Sarasota, visit its TourOperatorland.com pages here. For additional information on partnering through TourOperatorland.com., contact: Betsy Cooper, Director of TourOperatorLand.com and Partner Engagement at Connect Travel. Phone: 415.728.1085 / Email: [email protected]
Answering Your IPW/Connect Tour Questions
Making the Most of Your Time at IPW and Connect Events in Las Vegas: The U.S. Travel Association’s IPW, the largest Visit USA marketplace on earth, will open once again this September in Las Vegas—15 months after it was scheduled to take place—after the COVID-19 crisis and global pandemic basically shut down international travel. Joining IPW will be Connect TOUR, which will make it possible to do both domestic and international business at the co-located events.
For the upcoming IPW in Las Vegas, Malcolm Smith, U.S. Travel’s senior vice president of business development and general manager of IPW, told a webinar audience just as the last issue of INBOUND was published, that IPW is designed to “reconnect, rebuild and reunite the industry.”
During a day dedicated to “what’s new” and “how to” questions and answers aimed at those who would be attending IPW—INBOUND attended the session for the Americas—Smith emphasized some of the key changes that IPW-goers will experience this September 18-22. (The Connect TOUR schedule runs September 20-22 and is fully integrated with IPW.) Among those changes will be: a requirement to wear face masks at the event; shorter business appointments (15 minutes instead of 20); and hours more of networking time that will effectively eliminate “open” time.
FAQs: Here, from Team IPW is a compilation of answers to frequently raised questions that many IPW delegates have asked.
Q: Some countries are indicating that they may not be able to travel until October or later. How will these source markets affect IPW if it is able to continue as scheduled?
A: We anticipate a virtual component for countries facing restrictions or significant hardships; due to time zone challenges, these appointments would likely be held prior to the live event. We will have updates on a virtual component by mid-June.
Q: Since international travel is restricted at this time, what time frame will IPW organizers give suppliers regarding committed international attendance?
A: IPW’s Book with Confidence campaign allows risk-free registration for all delegates through June 30. We will work with countries facing entry/return restrictions in hopes they ease prior to September.
Q: Have you surveyed international buyers to see their comfort level in attending this tradeshow?
A: We are in touch with Visit USA committees and our recruitment chairs on a regular basis. There are various levels of comfort and desire to travel; but most have expressed a strong desire for a return of travel and in-person meetings. Vaccine distribution will hopefully improve likelihood of travel.
Q: With the federal government saying that the U.S. will have everyone vaccinated by end of May, have you heard any whispers of a revised border travel policy that will make attending IPW for our international buyers easier?
A: U.S. Travel has organized an International Working Group to work with the administration on a safe and responsible return to international travel. We will communicate any developments with delegates.
Q: Will there be a Media Marketplace this year? If so, any details you can share at this time?
A: Yes! Due to space challenges, we are working with an adjacent resort property to host the 2021 media marketplace. Stay tuned for exciting details.
Q: Will Media Marketplace still allow two representatives?
A: At this time, we are restricting it to one representative. We will monitor the situation and our meeting space to see if we can accommodate more.
Q: Will the Media Marketplace have the added safety design features, i.e., plexiglass barriers, distanced tables, etc.?
A: Yes, we will maintain spacing and have plexiglass dividers. Please visit ipw.com for our complete safety enhancements.
Q: Similar to media marketplace, are there plans for press conferences?
A: Yes, press conferences will return. We are moving from 40 minutes to 20 minutes to accommodate more of our exhibitors and keep them fresh and fast. More details to follow.
Q: What are the social distancing requirements during meetings?
A: We will maintain spacing and have plexiglass dividers. Please visit ipw.com for our complete and most up-to-date safety enhancements.
Q: With the new social distancing requirements in between booths, what will the new size of the booth be?
A: Single booths are still 10’X10; double booths will be 10’X26′ and triple booths 10’X42’; if you have an existing structure, we recommend centering in the space. Please contact [email protected] and we would be happy to work with you.
Q: If you are only allowing two delegates per booth, how will appointments work?
A: Each booth has one IPW appointment schedule. If you would like to maximize your presence, you may want to consider the Connect TOUR add-on for an additional set of domestic appointments.
Q: Does the capacity for booth include staff/buyers?
A: The capacity is for two exhibitor delegates per booth; buyers attending appointments do not count against this. We will continue to monitor CDC and local guidelines to determine if we can adjust this rule in the coming months.
Q: When will IPW & Connect appointments be held? Will IPW & Connect appointments be on separate days or on the same days?
A: They will be concurrent, so you would need at least two staff members to manage two appointment schedules.
Q: Will we be able to schedule appointments with domestic operators through the IPW platform?
A: You can purchase a Connect TOUR appointment schedule through ipw.com for $995. A contact will be assigned to this schedule and appointments will take place in your booth. Receptive operators and global OTAs will still be registered as IPW buyers.
Q: If we can only send one delegate and not two, are there any suggestions on how we can manage both IPW & Connect schedules?
A: It will not be possible for one person to manage two schedules as appointments may overlap. The open networking time would be a good opportunity to meet with additional buyers not scheduled.
Q: Will the IPW and Connect TOUR delegates be in the same booth space or two different booth spaces? In the same building or a different building?
A: The two events are fully integrated into the IPW show floor and appointment times. All appointments take place in exhibitors’ booths in the LVCC West Hall.
Q: Will Connect TOUR buyers have access to walk around the general IPW Marketplace during the networking time?
A: Yes, they will be fully integrated into the event and show floor
Q: What happens if we prepaid last year for more than two people per booth?
A: We will refund the difference. We suggest holding off a few weeks to see if capacity limit expands. Contact [email protected] if you have any questions or wish to have a refund now.
Q: What happens to those of us who paid for IPW 2020 and rolled over our payments for 2021? Are we still registered, and do we need to make changes to our both purchase as we may have more delegates registered?
A: You have been automatically registered for 2021. Please reach out to email@example.com to review your account and make changes as needed.
A Note on IPW’s Connect Partners: September 2021 will mark the first-ever co-location of IPW with three events organized and hosted by Connect Travel. Following are brief info-bytes about the events.
Connect TOUR, September 20-22, 2021. Connect TOUR is a domestic travel show, specifically designed to address industry needs. The event combines the right timing, a unique format that creates an efficient and effective environment to expedite the sales process and close business and a robust educational track to inspire and inform industry leaders in a rapidly evolving market. Connect Tour is the premier hosted-buyer event that brings together the most active tour operators, suppliers and experts in Domestic tour and travel for preset appointments, keynote general sessions, planner/supplier roundtables and quality networking.
Connect THRIVE SUMMIT, September 18-19, 2021. Connect THRIVE Summit is focused on community development through LGBTQ travel, sports, and entertainment. This one-of-a-kind marketing summit features dynamic general sessions and networking events alongside a series of pre-scheduled, one-on-one connections between destinations, resorts, hotels, attractions, domestic and international tour operators and travel agents, sports rights holders, media, marketers and brands.
eTOURISM SUMMIT, September 20-22 2021. Founded in 2000, eTOURISM SUMMIT attendees get up-to-the-minute, real-life examples of the latest applications in video, content marketing, email marketing, search, social media, mobile and web design. In an intimate setting, attendees get concrete ideas from their peers about how to get the most bang for their buck, learn guerilla marketing tactics, participate in interactive sessions, and hear about dozens of case studies to find out what’s working…and what’s not.
For more about Connect Tour/IPW, visit: https://www.ipw.com/connect-tour
Visit here for a list of key IPW dates and deadlines.
Staying Connected with Tour Operators
People are eager to travel to and within the U.S. Connect Tour’s recent virtual roundtable with U.S. and Canadian tour operators attracted several hundred travel and tourism industry professionals who showed interest in anything the operators had to say regarding when traveling, tours and tour itineraries will be back in action, as everyone seemed to agree that there is substantial pent-up demand for travel—especially among senior travelers. The panel for the roundtable discussion featured: Melody Jordan, owner, Front Line Tours;
Jamie Lynn Thompson, president & CEO, Southern Escape Tours; and Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel, and general manager, Connect Travel Events. Bailey was the moderator for the session.
1. The pent-up desire to travel is high, with operators indicating that seniors are especially eager to do so. It is such that the booking window for tours has grown increasingly smaller. In the past (pre-COVID-19) customers would book 9 to 12 months out from the date of departure. Now, tour operators are receiving calls for less than three months out, and up to as little as 45 days, out.
2. Although COVID vaccinations have created a sense of hope and optimism across and through much of the tourism industry, the expectation is that a real recovery or restart of business will come, at the earliest, in a late-spring-to-early autumn window. When it does occur, business will be very strong.
3. Aside from the new protocols for safety and cleanliness that have been embraced across-the-board in the tourism industry, there is no consensus on whether proof of a COVID vaccination should be required in order to take a bus tour or participate in tour activities. Imposition of such a measure is more likely to be an action undertaken by some level of government. And the tourism industry cannot be expected to be “the enforcer” of such measures.
4. Because of uncertainty and the ongoing presence of COVID-19 in everyone’s life, as well as sharply reduced budgets, marketing programs are conducted with “as-available” resources and applied creatively. E-mail blasts and a presence in the social media seem to account for a good portion of such marketing applications. Also, operators, suppliers and DMOs have found that soliciting home videos, travel videos and destination videos have provided industry businesses and organizations with substantial content for their websites and web marketing campaigns.
5. Smaller staffs and an industry weakened by the shutdown of some businesses and organizations, along with the cost in time of implementing health and safety protocols, are challenging tour operators whose customers depend upon on on-time stops at restaurants or attractions with scheduled programs and shows. (It takes time to conduct even a quick temperature check for an arriving group.) While the question of who should do it was not specifically addressed, panelists felt that there should be a single, overall, industry-wide certification program that would be recognized by all components of the travel and tourism industry.
6. Without exception, operators and virtual roundtable attendees look forward to the return to in-person, face-to-face meetings with clients and colleagues. Hugging, it was suggested, is important to both buyers and suppliers in the travel and tourism industry. Elbow or fist bumps will not be adequate.
Shari Bailey: “We’re coming out of this. We know we are. We’re coming out of it together, and we’re going to come out of it stronger.”
Jenny Lynn Thompson: “I think that, in the past, for me, I always felt like it was always time to sell a customer a destination. Now it’s telling them that it’s safe to travel.”
Melody Jordan: “We’re so ready! We’re ready when our customers are ready. And when the government will let us. We’re a senior-based company, so most of the calls we’re getting right now are our regular customers who are, like: What are you guys doing?’ Are you still there? Are we safe to go? Can we go? What can we do?’”
Jennie Lynn Thompson: “As far as when people are going to travel again—that’s the million-dollar question. I get the feeling that everyone’s crystal ball is broken. It’s kind of out of our control. I just keep pushing the message: do your part, wear your mask, be respectful, get vaccinated if you can. It helps everybody–we’re all in this together and it’s going take everybody working cohesively to be able to move forward.”
Melody Jordan: “Typically, most of our travelers (the company is based in Burlington, Ontario) do want to go to the U.S. Right now, it’s not there. … Right now, it’s domestic. It’s Ottawa. It’s Quebec City. It’s the Maritimes.”
Jenny Lynn Thompson: “We can’t be the enforcers. … We want people to travel, but we cannot be the re-enforcers. We’re never going to make you have a vaccination. Or, you have to have that COVID test. We can’t have that fall on us. Because we can take people to so many places and destinations and attractions. I just don’t think we should be the enforcers of something like that.”
Melody Jordan (Asked “Are you looking for new destinations, or for smaller towns rather than larger cities?”) “Our team—we’re always looking for new ideas. That’s why we like OMTA (Ontario Motorcoach Association Marketplace) and ABA (American Bus Association Marketplace). We go to those places and we just thrive on hearing the new ideas and little towns and little places. Everything. We come back to the office and brainstorm over it. So, any kind of ideas that anybody has, please e-mail me.”
Melody Jordan, owner, Front Line Tours [email protected]
Jamie Lynn Thompson, president & CEO, Southern Escape Tours [email protected]
Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel, and general manager, Connect Travel Events [email protected]
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