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As you have probably read by now, the U.S. Tour Operators Association Annual Conference took place last month in Hawaii. Every year, as I prepare to interview tour executives at the conference, I expect to hear about the latest exotic destinations that their companies are adding to their lineups. Sure enough, at this year’s conference, I heard a lot about Southeast Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and others. One of the biggest surprises, however, was how much excitement I heard about the rise of domestic destinations as well.
According to many of the executives I spoke with, in recent years, tours of U.S. and Canadian destinations have become best-sellers with travelers. Trafalgar, Adventures by Disney and many others have come up with creative itineraries and fun ways to experience these destinations, and they are seeing a big return on their investment.
“Honestly, we were all shocked,” Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar, told me. “We had no idea that our U.S. itineraries would be so popular. They rival almost anything else we do.”
Just to be clear, when I talk about visiting these destinations, I’m not referring to the dreaded staycation — which to me is another way of saying “we’re skipping a vacation this year.” These tour companies have exciting packages that take travelers to amazing locales throughout North America — in the East, in the Canadian Rockies or along the West Coast, for example — with programs and activities that expose guests to the best of these destinations.
As you read this issue’s cover story, “Growth Spurt,” about the quirky city of Austin, Texas, think about the opportunities you might have in your own business to help clients visit great North American destinations. Whether you book it through a tour operator, a rail company, an RV rental outfit or do it as FIT, ask yourself if you might be missing out on potential business by not diversifying.
As consumers see international airfares soar, they might be trying to decide between taking a vacation and staying home this summer. With a little education, you can be prepared with yet another option — one that gives them great memories and may help build your business at the same time.