Inside the Chamber: Marketing Glenwood to an international audience
St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” This is one of my favorite quotes and a good introduction to my message regarding Glenwood Springs’ marketing efforts to increase global visitation.
Glenwood Springs Tourism Promotion, through the marketing leadership of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, has partnered with the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) to extoll the many virtues and fun experiences available in Glenwood Springs to an international audience. This partnership has grown exponentially over the past four years.
In 2012, we began actively participating in familiarization tours (FAMs) through the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO). FAM tours are organized by CTO to bring international tour operators and travel media to and through the state. The team at CTO designs loop tours that usually originate in Denver. First, they foot the bill for participants’ airfare into Denver International Airport. Then they partner with communities throughout the state in order to show off all that Colorado has to offer. Each community helps book activities and garners rooms for FAM participants. Lodging properties are often able to host the rooms at no charge in the hope that these guests will book tours at their facilities. Generally, activities and attractions provide complimentary services and admissions.
In 2015, Glenwood Springs has hosted five FAMs. In February, there was a Japanese tour of eight and a mixed nation group of 17. The latter included participants from Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, South America, Korea and China. In June, a group of 12 German travel agents came for hotel site inspections and lunch. This summer, we also hosted two solo Japanese FAMs and three UK journalists. In September, we will host a Chinese FAM of nine participants and a French FAM of four. Each of these familiarization tours introduces international travel operators and media to the incredible attributes of Glenwood Springs.
Besides hosting groups on our turf, the tourism promotion staff represents Glenwood Springs at several international sales summits each year. Go West Summit introduces the world’s top international tour operators to suppliers offering tourism-related products or services in the American West. The U. S. Travel Association’s IPW is the travel industry’s premier international marketplace and is the largest generator of Visit USA travel. By attending these sales summits, we are able to meet face to face with international travel operators who are interested in developing tours in the state of Colorado. They often need a point person with whom they can coordinate their guests’ itineraries in each of the communities they plan to visit.
Glenwood Springs is especially appealing to Asian cultures that are very interested in hot springs and love to take photos of beautiful scenery. In August, I attended Japanese and Chinese sale summits in Los Angeles, organized by CTO. There, I presented to 70 Japanese tour operators and 15 Chinese travel specialists and journalists. The personal contact with these operators is invaluable to building trust.
According to the U. S. Travel Association, international guests tend to take longer vacations and spend more than domestic visitors. Here’s a snapshot of the 2014 top international markets to the U. S.
• Canada ranks number one in both visitation and spending with 23 million arrivals and $27.2 billion spent.
• China is number two in spending with $23.8 billion in 2014, while their arrivals were sixth at 2.19 million. That’s about $11,000 spent per person per trip to the U.S. making Chinese travelers the highest spending visitor group per person per trip to the U. S.
• Mexico is second with arrivals at 17.33 million and third in spending at $19.3 billion.
• Japan is fourth in both dollars and visits with 3.58 million arrivals and $17.3 billion in spending.
• The United Kingdom is third in arrivals with 3.97 million and fifth in spending with $13.2 billion.
As a result of our international marketing efforts, it becomes paramount for Glenwood Springs’ hospitality businesses to think globally. Local lodges, attractions, activities and restaurants must continue their efforts to represent a much broader target market. Many attractions and activities currently hire international students for the summer season. Think of the comfort of hearing your native tongue in an unknown place.
Our world-renowned neighboring resorts do a great job of marketing to international travelers and for years it has paid off. Now it’s Glenwood Springs’ turn to shine as we welcome the world. As Confucius said, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
Lisa Langer, IOM, is vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
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