International travel industry gets taste of Rainier, scones in Tacoma visit

Convention helps tour operators from around the world learn more about western US

Staff writerFebruary 26, 2014 

And there it was, Mount Rainier, revealing its snow-capped grandeur above a soft balcony of disappearing clouds on Wednesday morning.

Buyers and sellers from around the world attending this week’s Go West Summit stood looking out from the high windows on the fifth floor of the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center.

Some snapped pictures. Most simply ogled.

The event, which began Sunday, runs through Thursday (Feb. 27).

The convention connects the buyers, primarily tour operators, and the sellers who offer locations and attractions.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the conventioneers met for a series of tightly scheduled meetings held in a format similar to speed dating. The sellers made their pitches. The buyers asked questions and took notes. In some cases, contracts were signed.

“This is our 26th year,” said Bob Rebello, vice president of the summit organization. “This is our first year ever in Washington.”

At least 170 international buyers are attending, along with 400 suppliers from 14 Western states. 

“Tour operators are trying to get the best deal possible and pull together packages to sell to travel agents,” Rebello said..

He said the attendees will have completed 10,899 meetings over two days.

 “It’s extremely significant,” said Bennish Brown,  president and CEO at the Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau. “To have the decision makers here – it’s more effective than anything we can do. There are people who have no knowledge of us, or they’re being reacquainted.”

At the 2012 summit in Fort Worth, Texas, 308 suppliers representing 276 companies met with 152 delegates from 126 companies and 18 countries. Just over 7,800 meetings resulted in nearly 9.8 million visits throughout the West more than $243 million spent over the succeeding 18 months, according to Go West figures.

“I would expect that this is going to result in business that will come here for years to come,” Brown said. 

One of those guests might be Laszlo Horvath of Woodside, Calif. He was at the convention representing ActiveMedia, an online marketing firm.

“This is my first time in Tacoma,” he said Wednesday morning. “I was blown away by the kindness of the people, and the beauty of the Glass Museum. Mount Rainier – that was one of the most majestic views I’ve ever seen.”

Visitors have come from Asia and Europe, from companies including Tianjin Jinqiao International Travel and Viajes Espana, Holy International Travel Service and Sichuan Miracle Tours International.

“This area is new to us,” said Margit Brinke, of German travel publisher BriKrae. 

She said the next edition of her company’s travel guide “USA Nordwesten” will surely include an expanded look at Tacoma.

Chan You and Ellen Wang wholesale hotel packages to Asian visitors.

“Tourism is increasing for Asia. Many groups are returning to the U.S. for the second time, third time, even fourth time,” You said. “this is a great opportunity for us to see Tacoma.”

On Thursday (Feb. 27) the guests will visit that majestic mountain and go snowshoeing at Longmire or go skiing at Crystal. Or they might opt for an agritourism tour of local farms, or a look at Tacoma's four major museums, or a culinary exploration at various locations that will include, of course, the taste of fresh scones at the Washington State Fairgrounds.

The party ends Thursday (Feb. 27) evening with a reception at America's (and Tacoma's) Car Museum.


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