IITA Newsletter - August 3
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Here in Colorado we refer to August as the “Dog days of Summer” I don't know where that expression came from but I think we can all agree that this August is going to be one hot month! Things are rolling for 2016 and I'm looking toward 2017. IITA has had a great program this year starting with the;Summit in New York to celebrate the;25th Anniversary of RSAA (Now IITA). We launched Insights, a webinar series and renewed partnerships with key industry players. Most recently we hosted our first reception at IPW where I was overwhelmed by the attendance. Thank you to every member for making these programs a success. We now turn our focus to the future of IITA with strategic planning.  Thank you to everyone who completed the questionnaire. This will be a valuable  tool in directing our focus. 

I noticed that under “IITA Activities,” one of the top programs everyone looks forward to is the SUMMIT!  The program in the Mississippi Golf Coast is going to be a very important Summit as we focus on the Diversity of Travel!  We want to show our support for our tourism partners in an area that has received some negative publicity over the past months. Our Summit educational programs will be built around the theme of Diversity of Travel. We want to educate our members and partners on all the unique regions of the USA that you should know and love. Mark your calendar now to attend the 2017 IITA Summit! One of the perks of the program is a chance to possibly see a whole new area of the USA—and after 44 years in travel, I still get a thrill out of visiting new areas!

-Gary Schluter, Chairman
 Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours

P.S. – Our work on National Park funding continues – this week we signed on to a letter by the National Parks Second Century Action Coalition to Senate conferees on the Energy Bill conference to establish additional funding support for national parks. In order to best support our parks beyond funding, the coalition also supports the removal of provisions from the final bill that would harm national park water, air and wildlife.

From the Inside...with Bob Gilbert

IITA members are experts in the international inbound industry. That’s why we’ve asked them to share their expertise and market intelligence with you. Each issue of Insights will include an exclusive feature with a member who has a particular insight into subjects of importance to the industry. Watch for the series “From the Inside with…” in each issue. This week's issue features Bob Gilbert. 

Bob Gilbert has been providing international sales and marketing services for more than 30 years. He is a partner in Chinese Host based in Las Vegas. He has led international efforts at Walt Disney Attractions, Choice Hotels, Best Western, Delaware North, HelmsBriscoe to name but a few, and his creative efforts have won him 15 HSMAI Adrian marketing awards, Top 25 most influential travel industry executives. He’s served on the boards of NTA, US Travel Association and as an elected Commissioner for Visit California. He was a delegate at the 1995 White House Conference on Tourism and also an official delegate to the official launch of USA – China Tourism Year 2016 in Beijing. He is Marketing Chair for National Parks Promotion Council.

Chinese Host Inc. (CHD) is a privately held company founded by David Huang in 2000. Today, Chinese Host operates 40 buses and creates FIT and Group itineraries, shuttle bus services, bespoke customized travel arrangements, proprietary reservation and information platform for Chinese travel producers and full service representation services in China. CHD has hosted more than 1 million Chinese travelers since 2011 and features key destinations and attractions in the Western USA and National Parks. CHD has its corporate headquarters in Las Vegas with offices in Los Angeles, Beijing and Shanghai.

A 1.4 billion population. 200 million outbound travelers by 2020. Those are just two statistics why you should be thinking about China. Currently, about 3 percent of its travelers come to the United States. As that percentage continues to grow, that could soon mean 10 million Chinese visitors here annually. Are you ready?

Why is the China market so important?
The numbers speak for themselves. The marketplace is just incredible. There is a lot of pent-up demand. It’s just being realized by the Chinese themselves. China has evolved over the last three or four years with the freeing up of society and the maturing of financial institutions. (Its stock market has only been around for 10 years.)
Now, the most sought-after commodity is travel. There has been a deluge of Chinese travelers, which has been accelerated by the extended visa waiver program, which gives Chinese and other travelers a valid tourist visa for 10 years. Big trends today are the number of repeat visitors and the move to F.I.T (Fully Inclusive Tours) independent travelers.
How should my business or organization prepare?
Traditionally, markets develop over years. As that happens, travel preferences change, expand and mature. For example, when Europeans first came to visit the United States, they came in big groups, stayed together and went to a few markets. Now it’s commonplace to see F.I.T in various cities throughout the country. They strike out on their own and create a trip and experience that suits them.
The same is now true for Chinese travelers, but instead of taking 30 or 40 years, it has evolved in three or four years.

For information on sponsorship opportunities please email Toby Bishop
August 18 
LGBT Tourism and the Impact of Religious Freedom Laws - Register Here

August 31-September 1
La Cita

February 5-8
IITA Summit - Register Here
IITA Welcomes New Member:
The Survey Says...

Thank you to every member who took time to complete the member survey. We appreciate your feedback. While you are reading, this the Board is in Saint Augustine, Florida for the annual Board retreat. They will be using the feedback you provided to help make informed decisions on how the organization should continue to move forward. We would like to share with you the highlights of the survey:
The majority of respondents were industry veterans. There was a fairly equal number of operator, supplier and DMO responses.

The highest rated key challenges and trends, receiving a 5 or greater on a 6-point scale of agreement, were: 
  • The importance of the Visa Waiver Program to increase inbound travel
  • Large hotel chains bypassing traditional business channels
  • Changing consumer preferences resulting in non-traditional distribution channels
The top roles for IITA in addressing the challenges and trends were:
  • Education/ information
  •  Advocacy
  • Working in partnership with other organizations
  • Focusing on emerging markets
The most positive perceptions were related to the re-brand. We are happy to report that most respondents felt the new IITA brand was a positive move to position the organization more prominently in the industry. Additionally, respondents felt the new brand has increased enthusiasm and support among members of the organization. 

Thank you again for completing the membership survey! The winner of $100 off of their 2017 IITA Summit Registration is: Desiree Blum with EIG, Inc. Congratulations Desiree!
2017 IITA Summit

Last year we asked Summit attendees to tell us, What was the best aspect of Summit? 

They responded:
  • The Networking, Relationship Building, Seeing Old Friends and Making New Ones
  • The Way Things were Handled, Someone was Always Ready to Assist
  • Food at the Gala
  • Meeting New Companies
  • Data Provided by US Commerce
  • Relaxed Format
  • Silent Auction
No matter what you are looking for, we have something to offer you! Join us in the Mississippi Gulf Coast February 5-8, 2017!
Click Here to Register Now!
Presidential Nominees Seem Likely to Agree on Most Travel Issues
With the two major political parties having named their respective nominees--former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and businessman Donald Trump for the Republicans, it appears likely that travel and tourism could be one of the areas in which they share some common ground.
The US Travel Association, umbrella group for the travel industry, is busy generating support for the national tourism agenda by working the issues and being visible at both of the two conventions through a series of advertising messages about the value of travel, as well as publicizing the economic impact of the conventions themselves.
Keeping tourism issues at the forefront is good for business and good for the national economy.
Let’s take a look at where they may stand on three of the key issues that continue to be on the national tourism agenda and are critical to inbound tour operators.
First of all, the continuation of the Travel Promotion Act and its primary impact, the creation and operation of Brand USA, the marketing arm of the United States, will continue.  With a new lifespan of an additional five years authorized in 2014, Brand USA will be in place through 2020.
This means the excellent work being done by this organization, whose board is appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, should continue to deliver for America through the entire new administration and work hard to meet the goal set by President Barack Obama of 100 million annual inbound visitors by 2021.  What a great national goal for our part of the industry!
Are both Trump and Clinton likely to maintain this support for an organization which has been such a big contribution to an improved balance of trade for the United States through inbound tourism?  Yes.
Both Republicans and Democrats have strongly supported the Travel Promotion Act, so it is unlikely that this will change, especially since there are no tax dollars involved and the private sector match of more than $100 million a year is impressive.
It helps that Donald Trump himself is a long standing tourism leader and certainly understands the industry. Hillary Clinton, particularly as Secretary of State, knows that inbound tourism is a key element in achieving global peace and understanding.
Are there any aspects of this legislation to watch?  Yes, there is always the possibility that voices believing that there is no government role in tourism marketing could be raised when the Travel Promotion Act needs to be reauthorized before 2020.  Is this likely? No.  Should we make sure that those voices are not raised in the next four years?  Absolutely!
Secondly, there is the issue of visa accessibility and increased visa waiver countries.  This is going to be a much more challenging issue for all of us.
With the increasing amount of terrorism across the world with a lot of it occurring in Europe, previously considered to be relatively safe destinations, there is certainly more resistance to expanding visa waiver than there has been in recent years.  If anything, more restrictive visa policies are entirely possible.
Of the three issues discussed in this column, this one is the issue with which there will be the most disagreement.  While Secretary Clinton is most likely to support at least the current level of visa access and number of visa waiver countries, due to the role played by the State Department on this matter under her tenure, Mr. Trump will probably seek to reduce both visa access and the number of visa waiver countries, despite the rigorous procedures employed before anyone either receives a visa or is approved through the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).
How do we know this?  Trump's comments that he wants to suspend entry by certain people based on their religion or even if they come from a country, such as France, where there is significant terrorism.  Such comments totally discount the time tested procedures developed by the Departments of Homeland Security and State, in order to keep our visa practices so sound.
Any change in visa policy could impact inbound tourism, so, on this issue, we must be vigilant, in order that international visitation is not negatively affected.
The third issue is improving infrastructure.  On this matter, there probably is a high degree of common support from Clinton and Trump.
With no American airport ranking in the top 25 worldwide, over a trillion dollars worth of road, bridge, and tunnel infrastructure repair backlog, comparatively limited intermodal transportation between airports and city centers, and the dependence of the travel industry on all of these transportation elements being in excellent condition, this is a critical issue for inbound operators and the industry in general.
Fortunately, both Trump and Clinton are both strongly committed to improving America's infrastructure.  Both have spoken about it and both seem to have an appetite to put more federal resources into this backlog.
The FAST (Fixing America's Surface Transportation) Act, passed just this year, provides $207 billion in the next five years to address some of this backlog.  It's not enough.
Having both major party candidates committed to improving infrastructure, the question is only how much more will be recommended and appropriated by the next administration.  That will be the issue in the next four years, one which will require a lot of hard work to ensure that the biggest appropriations are authorized.  Clinton has outlined a "down payment" on the infrastructure, while Trump has recognized the entire over one trillion dollar backlog without giving too much specificity.
Should we be optimistic on this matter?  Yes.  Both candidates have spoken out strongly on infrastructure:  Donald Trump has positioned himself as the "only one who can fix it," given his background as a builder, and Clinton cited infrastructure as a major new job creation program.
So, there you have it.  Three issues, two with a general consensus and only the size and degree of the commitment to monitor and one with some divisiveness and work to do.
Take a hard look at these three issues and watch how they play out in the next 100 days in order to determine which candidate will serve tourism best.