IITA Insights Newsletter - November 22, 2017
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Happy Thanksgiving!
Please note the IITA office will be closed November 23 & 24
for the holiday.


Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving! In a continuation of the National Parks “saga” from my last column, I have good news to share. The National Park Service has extended the comment period for the Proposed Changes to Commercial Tour Requirements and Fees and the across-the-board Fee Increases and Peak Season Rates – the new deadline is December 22.

IITA collaborated with two coalitions to urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to extend the comment period, as did other organizations and even Members of Congress. Working in tandem across the industry gives us a stronger, unified voice that we hope will be heard by the Department of Interior as we oppose these sweeping changes. The significant fee increases proposed would have a serious impact on the economies of surrounding destinations and suppliers as well as limiting tour operators’ inclusion of national parks in our product lines.

In other national park news, Arches National Park has proposed reservation systems for individuals and commercial tour operators to go into effect, January 1, 2019. Last week, I attended an open comment hearing at Arches and spoke with the superintendent about our concerns, including the number of questions that remain unanswered in their proposal:

  • How will international travelers looking to visit Moab be educated about the reservation requirement, specifically, that they cannot book the park until 6 months before arrival?
  • What if their dates are sold out and they’ve already booked their travel and lodging?
  • What will happen if one of our guests has delayed their travels—a flight delay into Denver or Salt Lake City, road conditions that cause a long detour, an illness that causes them to delay by 1-2 days – do they lose their chance to visit this park or take a chance on the “lottery” for day-before/day-of passes?
  • How will tour operators be able to take late bookings into Moab when preferred dates will likely sell out quickly?

The superintendent’s comments indicated she believes it will happen, which raises another major concern. How many other parks would follow and how soon?

Couple this reservation system with the proposed fee increases, and what a jumbled mess it will be for tour operators and our international visitors, not to mention the American public.

We speak for all of our members when addressing these issues with the National Park Service. I have been warning for the past year that this was about to explode on us—although I did not think that it would come so quickly, and in so many harmful ways all at once.

We are preparing comments to strongly oppose the proposed Arches reservation system and the proposed fee increases/changes to commercial tour requirements, and we urge you to do the same.

Comments for Arches must be made by December 4. We will share more information with you on our position as we near the comment period deadline.
-Gary Schluter, Chairman
 Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours

2018 IITA Summit
February 4-7, 2018
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Click here to review 2018 IITA Summit Sponsorship Opportunities or contact Toby Bishop to design your custom package today!
Please donate a package to the 2018 IITA Summit Silent Auction - Complete Form. All proceeds benefit Tourism Cares. Thank you to our generous partners who have already donated packages.
New Member Benefit: Receptive Tour Operator Directory

IITA has an exciting new member benefit in store for inbound operator members!

All IITA Inbound Operators will be listed in a receptive tour operator directory on the new Brand USA travel trade website set to launch in January.

The new online platform, unveiled recently at World Travel Market in London, will act as a comprehensive, one-stop gateway for international tour operators, travel agents and other travel buyers worldwide looking to better sell the USA. As part of this development, IITA has worked closely with Brand USA to ensure that our inbound operators are included on the site.

Your company contact information and website will automatically be included in the Brand USA site as part of your benefits of IITA membership. Watch for further details once the site launches in January.
From the Inside: With Tony Funderburg

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains Wildfires, IITA sits down with Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Director of Sales and Marketing Tony Funderburg to gain his insight on how his community pulled together, as well as to learn what continues to draw international visitors to the region.

Tony Funderburg joined the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce team as director of sales and advertising in April of 2016 after nearly 20 years of tourism industry experience in group sales and marketing. He has previously served as the director of sales and marketing for the Edgewater Hotel and Convention Center in Gatlinburg, TN, vice president of sales and marketing at GroupConnect, and as the national sales and marketing director for International Motor Coach Group.

1. In late 2016, wildfires spread across the Great Smoky Mountains, during the height of your winter tourism season. How did you handle the evacuation of tourists? Did you work with inbound operators to reroute any exiting or incoming guests?

Thankfully Sevierville did not have any active fires during this event and did not have to evacuate. Our Sevierville hotels and cabins helped house evacuees and displaced residents and visitors in the days and weeks following the fires.

Read More Here

Ask the Operator Panel Returns
 - With a Twist

Year after year, Summit attendees tout the amazing education they received at the event. This year is sure to be no exception! Over the next few weeks we will highlight speakers and topics that will be featured at the 2018 IITA Summit. If you are eager to learn more about the education offerings now, please visit our website for more information. 

Always a crowd favorite, the Ask the Operator session will return to Summit as a breakout session, with a twist. This year's moderator, Renee Eichelberger, Explore St. Louis, will moderate the session with a focus on the MICE Market.

The MICE (Meeting Incentives Conferences Exhibitions) market, is rapidly growing in influence and financial impact in the inbound travel industry. Join our panelists, Pia Jayatilake, New World Travel; Jordi Zarroca, Cosmopolitan Incentives; and Stephan Forget, Go West Tours, MICE operators, to learn:
  • How to expand your international business in the MICE market
  • What markets and regions are providing the greatest numbers of MICE travelers
  • Patterns of MICE Markets
And more!
If you haven’t registered for Summit, do so TODAY! Appointment scheduling will open in January. Also, don’t forget to reserve your hotel room.  
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