Earlier this month, Visit Durango hosted the International Inbound Travel Association, including 35 members, for its annual board of directors and advisory committee leadership retreat.
IITA is the nonprofit trade association representing the United States international travel industry, and the group included inbound tour operators and members of some of the top hotel chains, attractions, and city and state tourism officials in the U.S.
Research conducted by the Colorado Tourism Office in 2017 shows international visitors represent a “high value” traveler. They spend an average of $1,763 per trip, while in comparison, the average domestic leisure traveler spends $560. Colorado’s top international markets are Canada, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Mexico and China. These visitors come to Colorado for adventure and Old West culture, national parks, scenic touring and fine dining. Building relationships with inbound tour operators is necessary to attract these valuable travelers.
Also known as “receptive tour operators,” IITA inbound tour operators are U.S.-based companies, which specialize in creating, marketing and selling U.S. travel products to international travelers. A tour operator is considered “inbound” when the majority of its revenue is derived from inbound international travelers to the United States. These inbound operators contract with overseas tour wholesalers, agents and other travel producers to provide tourist services throughout the U.S. for groups and FIT travelers (free independent travelers or tourists).
The best way to sell a destination is to experience it firsthand, and the move to host IITA proved an excellent opportunity for Durango. It offered IITA elite members a chance to visit a region they are likely promoting to their international clients but have not yet visited themselves. The group was highly impressed with the organization by local officials and suppliers, from attractions such as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Purgatory Resort to downtown Durango’s historic district, hotels and dining. IITA conducted several highly productive meetings during the two-day program, including a session aboard a private car on the D&SNG. In addition, IITA members got to visit hotels for site inspections and experience all Durango has to offer firsthand.
IITA’s mission is to solve problems that may arise between inbound operators and other aspects of the tourism industry. During the summer retreat, issues and solutions were presented, from education and technical aspects to new rules, regulations and fees at national parks. Durango’s proximity to Mesa Verde National Park, one of the top parks in the Southwest, and working with the National Park Service will be of vital importance to future coach travel into our region.
According to Gary Schluter, founder of Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours: “I have been chair of the IITA board now going on four years. One of my goals is to ensure members in the Western States are better represented, including encouraging our board of directors to travel outside the usual big-city locations, to areas that offer so much for inbound guests. We are especially grateful to the city of Durango, Visit Durango and the local community for an exceptional board retreat. Durango was exceptionally inviting and accommodating for our group.”
Durango and La Plata County offer the perfect location for groups and events. Visit Durango provides free assistance for businesses, organizations and individuals planning meetings, reunions or sporting events. Contact our sales office for help planning your event at 459-9055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Theresa Graven is the PR strategist for the Durango Area Tourism Office. She can be reached at 247-3500 or email@example.com.