Marietta CVB attends showcase

MARIETTA — Deana Clark, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County CVB, recently attended the Heartland Travel Showcase Feb. 22-24 at the COBO Convention Center in Detroit.

Throughout the travel industry showcase, tour operators and exhibitors discussed with each other the future of group travel in the Heartland region. The convention was hosted by the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The first meeting, the Four-Minute Meet, allowed exhibitors to make brief introductions and extend 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 among exhibitors for their appointments.

The six-minute appointments allowed for tour operators and exhibitors to make the connections to 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, once a strong competitor in the group tour market, in recent years has experienced a decrease in visits from large groups, mostly caused by the closure of key attractions like the Middleton Doll Factory in Belpre and Fenton Glass in Williamstown, Deana Clark. executive director of the Marietta travel bureau, said.

“We are excited for the opportunity to begin bringing bus groups back to Marietta,” Clark said. “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.”

The bureau is seeing the results of its group tour marketing efforts. Two bus groups have committed to visit Washington County within the next few months and the burreau is preparing itineraries.

“This is just the beginning,” Clark said. “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, she said.

The benefit of the industry is that it’s extremely labor intensive and many of the businesses that operate within it are small businesses and micro operators, she said.

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, Clark said.