NTA Readies for More Operators, More Options at Travel Exchange
September 2, 2014
Travel Exchange is more than four months away, but NTA leaders are already preparing for higher attendance at their Jan. 18–22, 2015, event in New Orleans. Overall registration is pacing 6 percent ahead of 2014, and tour operators are leading the pack, with 35 percent more registrants than this time last year.
“We know that where buyers go, sellers will follow, so we are planning for a bump in attendance,” said Pam Inman, whose first day as NTA president is today. “I’m pleased that the first news I have to share is that interest in our annual event has increased, and this is consistent with what our operators are telling us about their business this year.”
According to the association’s mid-year survey of members, 68 percent of the NTA tour operators surveyed reported an increased sales volume during the first six months of 2014, compared to 2013. A similar number (65 percent) reported serving more clients so far this year. And six in 10 said that 2014 bookings are on pace to be greater than in 2013.
Along with better business, Inman attributes the rise in registration for Travel Exchange to strong marketing and great interest in the host city. “New Orleans is a terrific convention site, and our members also see it as a top-notch destination to explore and enjoy,” she said, adding that half of the sightseeing trips have already sold out. Through these tours, the Crescent City offers attendees a range of tour product that includes culinary, art, history and adventure tourism.
New Orleans’ market diversity mirrors the interest that tour operators’ clients have in unique, specialized experiences. Earlier 2014 surveys show that NTA tour operators are becoming increasingly active in diverse markets. Most already package U.S. national parks, education and events, and operators report significant growth in five markets: agritourism, ecotourism, sports, voluntourism and faith-based travel. Tour operators offering and developing product for all of these tour types will be at Travel Exchange.
The Travel Exchange umbrella includes the NTA convention, the United Motorcoach EXPO and the Faith Travel Association conference. Thirty countries were represented by NTA delegates at Travel Exchange ’14, held last February in Los Angeles. Attendees generated more than $150 million in total business, according to an independent study conducted for NTA by Jason R. Swanson, Ph.D., assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management at the University of Kentucky.