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The Countdown Begins! | Members on Markets: Sports Travel

April 3, 2012

Volume 32, Issue 14

Quebec National Shrines
Interested in advertising in Tuesday? E-mail Karla DiNardo.

The Countdown Begins!
Members on Markets: Sports Travel
3 Qs for 3 Operators
Everybody Wins when Big Games Come to Town
Funding for Brand USA Eliminated in Budget Bill Passed by U.S. House
Here’s Your Opportunity to Host Contact and 100-plus Tour Operators
Updates on Hispanic Task Force and Mexico Meeting Place
Webinar Today on the Japan Market for Inbound-U.S. Travel
What Does One NTA Member Say is a Fantastic Way to Network?
Pinterest Drawing Interest to Member DMO
Industry News and Updates

The Countdown Begins!  

Registration for Travel Exchange opens next Tuesday, April 10, at 12 noon. Are you ready to register?

We’ll be sending out an e-mail next week when registration opens with your individual log in and password (it’s the same one you use to access NTAonline) and the link toTravel Exchange horizontal small register. Travel Exchange registration fees are below:

Tour Operators (buyers): Don’t forget the Buy One Get One and rebate opportunities!
Early Bird (before August 24)   US$220
Regular (after August 24)       $330                         

Tour Suppliers/DMOs (sellers): Remember, registering early helps you get better appointments!
Early Bird (before August 24) $1,200
Regular (after August 24)  $1,400

Associates: $2,500 per attendee (includes one exhibit booth per company)

Educators: $220

And if you register by Friday, April 13, you’ll also earn the chance to win one of these prizes!

Prizes for Tour Operators (buyers)

  • Registration to Travel Exchange (That’s right … you’ll get your money back!)
  • Free NTA dues for 2013 (You can save up to $485 for your company.)
  • Registration for Contact 2013
  • A pair of tickets to see Blue Man Group while you’re in Orlando
  • Dinner for two at NASCAR Sports Grille at Universal City Walk while you’re in Orlando
  • An Apple iPad (the new one!)

Prizes for Tour Suppliers and DMOs (sellers)

  • Registration to Travel Exchange (That’s right … you’ll get your money back!)
  • Free NTA dues for 2013 (You can save up to $1,735 for your property.)
  • Full-page ad in the on-site Travel Exchange program
  • A seminar sponsorship and attendance package to Contact 2013 (Your destination or property gets all the seminar sponsor perks, including being able to attend this operator-exclusive event-a $3,000 value.)
  • An Apple iPad (the new one!)

Have questions about Travel Exchange? Check out the Travel Exchange FAQs or e-mail your question to

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Members on Markets: Sports Travel 

Today’s Members on Markets is focused on sports travel, which includes attending championship events, embarking on cross-country baseball tours, traveling for youth sports teams and everything in between. The international sports-related travel market was estimated in 2008 to be US$600 billion, some 10 percent of the global tourism market. Visa, which tracks tourism spending by cardholders during "mega-sporting events," reports that expenditures grew significantly from the previous year during these events:

  • 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa: up 82 percent
  • 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Vancouver: up 93 percent
  • 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing: up 15 percent

Even "smaller" events mean big money. Last night, a new college basketball champion was crowned in New Orleans, where the Final Four was expected to have a $150 million impact. And there’s always another game or race or match: Tomorrow is opening day in the U.S. for Major League Baseball. Then right around the corner there’s the Kentucky Derby … and the Indianapolis 500 … the Calgary Stampede … then the Olympic Games in London …

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of NTA tour operators report packaging sports travel for spectators (think Super Bowl, World Cup soccer, etc.). A smaller number (16 percent) say they package travel for sports participants (youth teams and marathon runners, for example.) That number would grow if you added certain adventure activities, such as skiing.

The next two articles examine sports travel from several perspectives. Read to get advice about entering the sports travel market as a tour operator and making the most of big events as a supplier or DMO.

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3 Qs for 3 Operators 

Jay Smith, owner of Sports Travel and Tours in Hatfield, Massachusetts, has been in the travel business since 1974 and in sports travel since 1990. Smith has been a sports fan all his life, and now he’s helping other fans fuel their passion.
Suzanne Slavitter, CTP, who, with her husband, Daniel Chavez, owns Sports Empire, which she joined 22 years ago. "We both love football and baseball and enjoy going to sporting events," she said.
John Martin, founder and CEO of Great Atlantic Travel and Tour in Virginia Beach, Virginia, began operating sports travel in 1981. "I started as a fan," he said." Now, I am out of the country at least a 100 days a year working on international events."

Q: What type of sports travel packages do you offer-and who’s buying?
4.2.13 JaySmithJay Smith: Our programs are split between pre-packaged tours and FIT for individuals and customized programs for groups. Our travelers are aged 8 to 80, families, couples, singles, young and old. We offer all the major classic events like the Final Four, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, World Series and all-star games, as well as football weekends, spring training and baseball road trips.
John Martin: We provide worldwide sports travel to all major international and U.S. sporting events. Our fan base is worldwide, and many programs are customized to the clients’ preferences. We provide sports services to FIT, groups and corporate travelers. Ours is the only company in North America that has operated as the official travel agency for rugby, FIFA and cricket World Cups since 1994.
Suzanne Slavitter: We offer packages to the major North American sports and special events. Most of our business is individual bookings, and our tour length is typically a weekend. Our clients are typically yuppies and boomers and it’s their dream trip to go to the Super Bowl or the Kentucky Derby.  

Q: What trends for this market do you see down the road?
4.2.13 SlavitterSuzanne Slavitter: As travelers continue to get more sophisticated and smarter in their planning through the Internet, flexibility in packaging will be important to meet each individual client need. We also offer special event packages to the Rose Parade, Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and Mardi Gras; this is an area where we are adding more product as we move forward.
Jay Smith: Groups are not filling up, and that has been going on for years across our industry. Our longer, more expensive programs still sell, as the people who had disposable income still have it. You would think that the shorter, less-costly, lower-margin programs would sell better, but it’s this market that has been hit the hardest economically. 
John Martin: As a result of the recession, corporate and individuals are all pulling back and spending less for leisure activities. And event tickets, airfares, hotels and transportation are priced at an all-time high. I believe it will take another two years for the unemployment to come down to a level where individuals and corporations will feel comfortable with increasing their sports travel.

Q: What would you say to the tour operator who’s considering jumping into the market?
4.2.13 JohnMartinJohn Martin: For someone to get into the sports travel business, they would need to bring investors. Sports travel is a very high-risk business. Domestic event tickets are expensive and need to be paid for as much as eight to 10 months ahead. International sports programs require major deposits years in advance. Event tickets, hotels and airfare are all at a premium cost. If you buy in the wrong product, you are left with major losses and looking for more investors.
Suzanne Slavitter: Jump lightly! Why recreate the wheel when there are good NTA members who can help with the operations, leaving you time to concentrate on the marketing. That’s a better way to get started, so you don’t have any minimum or maximum numbers to meet. This niche is on the higher side for price and activity level, and it’s typically not for a senior traveler. So if that’s your client base you’d need to be able to reach out to a younger demographic.
Jay Smith: There are not many people I would advise to jump into the sports travel market at this time. If you do jump in you’d better have a specialty niche, a following of clientele and a database. We are working harder for less to maximize profits, as the world is a bit edgy to get back in and spend. However, as I say all the time: We create fun—for others. What a great way to earn a living.

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Everybody Wins when Big Games Come to Town  

Some 75,000 basketball fans (and other, ticketless visitors) were in New Orleans, Louisiana, for the past few days during the men’s college basketball championship, all of them enjoying the city’s restaurants and bars. And with three games spread over three days, those visitors had time to enjoy attractions, too, such as the National World War II Museum.

A major sporting event such as the Final Four presents a tremendous opportunity to showcase a site, said Michelle Mueller, director of sales for the museum.4.2.13 MichelleMueller

"Coming here for the Final Four gives individuals and groups the chance to experience an important part of world history," Mueller said. "And because the museum’s space is unique and inspiring, we host many evening events for visiting organizations."

Mueller said her sales team works with tour operators prior to a sporting event to match operators’ itineraries with the museum’s unique tour packages. "Our team will make recommendations to give the customers enough time to experience the museum," she said. "It’s important to make group arrangements ahead of time because our attractions are popular and do sell out."

An even larger sporting event, the Olympic Games in London this summer, offers more options for visitors, said Lisa Sjolund, partnership development executive with VisitBritain. "There is truly no better time to visit Britain than in 2012," Sjolund said. "For six weeks, the games will showcase world-class sport and sporting venues throughout London, England, Scotland and Wales. A large number of cultural offerings will also be available for visitors to be entertained."

Sjolund said that even without a ticket to an Olympic event, there are plenty of ways to be part of the Games. "One can attend a non-ticketed event such as the marathon at Hyde Park or road cycling at Hampton Court Palace or even sailing at Weymouth and Portland. Or people can enjoy the festival-like atmosphere that will permeate the streets and pubs!"

Mueller has recommendations for suppliers hoping to capitalize on an influx of sports fans when the big game comes to town.

  • Make sure you know what teams are playing and where the fan base is coming from. Are they local? Are they driving in? Are they flying in?Knowing this will help you determine if you need to put more information in your state’s travel centers, hotel concierge desks and airport information centers.
  • Give the best discounts and value-added deals to your tour operators and travel agents, because they are the ones you will continue to do business with after the games are over.
  • Partner with local hotels and other attractions to create packages.
  • Promote fan specials at times that do not conflict with the games or major fan activities.Try to get a look at the "fan activity schedules" for each team and sporting event.
  • Make sure to thank the fans for being in your city and visiting your venue.

When college teams are involved, Mueller suggests contacting the local chapter of the schools’ alumni programs, which can connect you with the primary alumni contact at the college. "Let them know you have specials to offer exclusively for their school, which they can include, along with your company’s link, in their e-mail blasts," she said. "And don’t forget to drop off your brochures to their hospitality desks-and be sure to include a map of your location."  

Big games can mean big dollars to host cities, and suppliers who follow a game plan like Mueller’s can be big winners.

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Funding for Brand USA Eliminated in Budget Bill Passed by U.S. House 

Among the many elements in the budget bill introduced by Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week was one that directly affects the travel sector of the national economy.

On a strictly partisan vote of 228 to 191, the House adopted a budget for 2013 that would defund and eliminate Brand USA, previously known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion. If passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law, the bill would bring an end to the $100 million in matching funds used by Brand USA to market United States destinations internationally.

"Losing Brand USA would be a blow to U.S.-inbound marketing efforts that are important to jobs creation, the national economy and all of our members who benefit from overseas visitors," said Lisa Simon, NTA president. "For these reasons, NTA has been working cooperatively with Brand USA and will continue to seek additional opportunities."

Passage of the bill, known formally as House Congressional Resolution 112, is viewed as unlikely, due to opposition in the United States Senate. With 2012 a national election year, however, it is possible that advocates of the Ryan budget bill could gain control of the Senate and the White House, setting up a scenario where the bill could become law in 2013.

"NTA plans to work with other travel sector organizations, including U. S. Travel, to educate the representatives who voted for this budget, so that the elimination of Brand USA will not be included in future versions," said Simon. "This is a good time to re-emphasize the importance of tourism."

You can be a part of that effort. NTA, along with the Southeast Tourism Society and Destination Marketing Association International is hosting the Grassroots Congressional Travel Summit in Washington, D.C., May 8 to 10. Attendees will network with tourism leaders and meet with elected officials to promote travel industry priorities.

"Educating these representatives during our Grassroots Congressional Travel Summit will be a high priority," said Simon.  "We expect the turnout to grow because of this vote."

For more information about the Summit and to register, click here.

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Here’s Your Opportunity to Host Contact and 100-plus Tour Operators 

Playing host to any NTA meeting gives you a chance to showcase your destination or venue to your association’s leaders. And by hosting Contact, you’ll also open your doors to more than 100 NTA tour operators.

The bid process is now open for destinations interested in hosting Contact 2014. Contact is a tour operator-exclusive event focused on in-depth education, while providing opportunities to network with colleagues in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Katrina White, host chair of the 2011 Contact in Newport, began seeing the benefits of hosting right after the event. "In just one week after the conference, we were already seeing an ROI by way of new business," she said. "Hosting Contact was one of the best investments we have made into the packaged travel market, not to mention what a great time we had showing off our destination!"

If you are interested in hosting Contact 2014, please submit the bid specification form by July 20, 2012.

Questions? E-mail NTA events manager Lauren Ashley Pope.

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Updates on Hispanic Task Force and Mexico Meeting Place 

We have a few updates to last Tuesday‘s story about the NTA-ASTA Hispanic Business Development Task Force that met in conjunction with Tianguis Turistico Mexico.

  • No fewer than 10 media outlets have posted news stories about the meeting. See the NTA news release here.
  • NTA has posted photos of task force members and the Puerto Vallarta-Riviera Nayarit destination on our Facebook page.
  • Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, COO of the Mexico Tourism Board, praised U.S. State Department officials for revising an earlier travel advisory. The new advisory pinpoints areas of concern rather than warning about travel to the entire country.

Attendance at this year’s Tianguis was 7,000, a considerable increase from last year’s attendance of 4,000. Mexico also set a new record for the number of international arrivals: 22.67 million in 2011, a 2 percent increase over 2010.

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Webinar Today on the Japan Market for Inbound-U.S. Travel 

Later today (April 3), the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries and the U.S. Commercial Service Travel & Tourism Team are presenting a Webinar about Japan, the United States’ largest overseas tourism market in terms of spending. Scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET, the Webinar will present data and analysis on Japanese inbound tourism to the United States, as well as opportunities and strategies to attract Japanese travelers.

The cost is $50. Click here for more information about the session’s speakers, content and registration information.

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What Does One NTA Member Say is a Fantastic Way to Network? 

A: Attending NTA’s Contact (Aug. 16–18, 2012, in beautiful San Diego, California)!

Contact 2012 See You ThereAfter sponsoring at last year’s Contact event, Benjamin Eastman of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau said, "Contact is a fantastic way to network and mingle in a more casual and relaxed atmosphere." Since Contact is a tour operator-exclusive event, you can sponsor to attend and enjoy an incredible ratio of buyers to sellers in a casual environment that is perfect for building business.

Learn more about sponsoring at Contact and read more of what last year’s sponsors had to say! Interested in sponsoring? Contact Melisa-Beth Rooke by e-mail or phone (859.264.6561) today!

Tour operators interested in attending can register here.

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Pinterest Drawing Interest to Member DMO  

VisitSavanah is one of the most-followed travel brands on Pinterest, according to an article on The story details the DMO’s success on the online bulletin board, where more than 12,000 people are now following the Georgia city’s Pinterest page, which includes boards on Savannah hotels, restaurants, shops, events, attractions, mansions and more.

In this month’s Courier, social media expert Catheirne Heeg outlines 14 ways that NTA members-suppliers and operators-can boost interest in their business or destination among the 4 million-plus Pinterest users. Click here for the Courier article, which includes tips, best practices and links to other DMOs getting good mileage from the Pinterest page.

Finally, Renee Warren, in an article on, details how Pinterest can boost the bottom line for a small business. Her reasons for being active on the site include discovering what your customers want, monitoring what your competitors are doing, and increasing sales and brand awareness. Click here for the article.

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Industry News and Updates

  • AirTran is the nation’s top airline in terms of customer service and reliability, according to the 2012 Airline Quality Rating report. Hawaii Airlines had the best on-time percentage, and Southwest had the lowest rate of complaints.
  • While international demand for London accommodations during the Olympic Games this summer is increasing, 12 percent of UK residents intend to go abroad during the Games. The United States (especially Florida) tops booking inquiries, according to one company.
  • Travel spending increased in 2011 by Visa cardholders from the United States (up 7 percent), Canada (11 percent), Mexico (19 percent) and Brazil (32 percent). Click here for more details, including details about top spenders visiting those countries.

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