CVB attends Heartland Travel Showcase in Detroit

Deana Clark, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County CVB recently attended Heartland Travel Showcase at the COBO Convention Center in Detroit, Michigan. Held Feb. 22-24, she joined other attendees in representing the heartland region group travel industry.

Throughout the showcase, tour operators (buyers) and exhibitors (sellers) networked with each other for the future of group travel in the Heartland region hosted by the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tour operators and exhibitors connected throughout the weekend with planned networking events.

The first networking event, the Four Minute Meet, allowed exhibitors to make brief introductions and extended invitations to tour operators to continue the conversation during scheduled appointments. Throughout the remainder of the weekend, travel industry exhibitors had booths and buyers walked the floor and moved from exhibitor booth to exhibitor booth for their appointments. These six-minute appointments allow for tour operators and exhibitors to make the connections to help grow the group travel market in the Heartland. Operators and exhibitors also learned about trends in the travel industry, and how to use them in their business.

Washington County was once a strong competitor in the group tour market, but in recent years has experienced a decrease in visits from large groups. The decline is mostly the result of the loss of key attractions like the Middleton Doll Factory and Fenton Glass.

“We are excited for the opportunity to begin bringing bus groups back to Marietta. Our partners have worked hard to develop quality attractions, and it’s the responsibility of the CVB to communicate that message with the many buyers in the tour group industry,” says Clark.

The CVB is quickly seeing the results of their group tour marketing efforts. Presently two bus groups have committed to visit Washington County within the next few months and the CVB is preparing itineraries for their groups.

“This is just the beginning,” says Clark. “We met with 28 different tour operators at the show and are currently following up with each one of those, trying to close the deal and get commitments for overnight stays here in our county.”

Overnight group tours generate thousands of dollars each day for the local economy and tourism allows wealth to be injected into a community in a variety of ways. The great benefit of this industry is that it’s extremely labor intensive, and many of the businesses that operate within it are small businesses and micro operators. This means that every dollar coming into the industry is felt quickly by business owners and staff, and is directly related to a boost in local spending. For a community with the potential to become a tourist destination, there are a huge range of benefits. It’s also great for individual travelers because with a booming tourism industry, there is lots to do and plenty of places to stay. As a result, more and more tourists are drawn in.

The CVB has also attended leisure travel shows throughout the region since the first of the year and has distributed nearly five thousand of the newly released 2019 visitor guides.