Five states round up regional tourism products

by Steve Hartridge

Tour operators from 10 countries gathered in Spearfish, South Dakota (April 28-May 1), to learn all about the latest tourism products and attractions in five U.S. Midwest states.

The 25th staging of International Roundup (IRU) in the state’s Black Hills saw the operators meeting with 85 suppliers from South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, a region collectively known as the Great American West.

The suppliers represented everything from hotels, ranches, scenic train rides, museums, reptile parks, motor cycle tours, Native Indian attractions and even the largest mountain carving in progress in the world, the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.

UK tour operators at the show included America as You Like it and Discover North America.

Cole Irwin, Global Travel Trade Director, South Dakota Department of Tourism, said IRU provides the perfect showcase to talk about “the many great things” the state offers.

“International tourism is very important to South Dakota and the region. We know we are not the best-known area in the U.S. but we want to share South Dakota with the world. We have great things here: national parks like the eerie Badlands, where Mother Nature is at her best; real Wild West towns like Deadwood; wildlife in Custer State Park and kayaking and fishing on the Missouri River. "

Marlee Iverson, International Travel Trade Manager for Montana Office of Tourism said: “This show is always really good for us. We enjoyed meeting with the different tour operators from our key markets. As a five-state association, we pool our resources at this show to promote the whole area. We know that visitors interested in say, our Cowboy culture, Mount Rushmore National Memorial or Yellowstone National Park don’t really notice state borders.”

James Scoon, Director of Global Sales and Services at the Wyoming Office of Tourism said: “This was my 11th IRU and the quality of operators this year was excellent. I have had a lot of great discussions and after talking to our state suppliers, from ranches to attractions like the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, everyone got at least something out of just about every meeting they had…and that is what makes this intimate show different from other trade events.”

He added: “A lot of excellent tourism products simply can’t afford to travel over to meet with tour operators in their own countries. But the Great American West brand, as a consortium, means Wyoming can do so much more in terms of outreach.”

Nancy Richardson, International Trade Specialist for Idaho Department of Tourism said IRU is an essential show because it brings tour operators with a “proven passion” for the region together with destinations and products that are looking to attract more international visitors.

“Our Great American West country offices (including KBC in the UK) do a great job in vetting the buyers they bring here. These operators understand the region and that makes our own tourism suppliers who are trying to raise their profile in our key markets very comfortable.”

Perhaps the least known state of the Great American West states, North Dakota, has everything that overseas visitors are looking for from a visit to the Midwest, said Fred Walker, International Marketing Manager for North Dakota Tourism.

“From wagon trails, Native American pow wows, ranches, Fort Abraham State Park - where General George Custer was stationed and there is a reconstruction of his home and barracks - to our towns like Bismarck and Fargo, great golf courses and mountain biking in places like the majestically beautiful Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we have plenty to offer…and most visitors comment on our clean air, open spaces and uncrowded attractions and roads,” he said. 

International Round Up contributes around $127 million dollars in future visitor spend in the five-state region, said Mathias Jung, CEO of show organiser, Rocky Mountain International.

The next International Roundup, in April 2020, will be held in Casper, Wyoming.

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