Category Archives: Industry News

More Tips from our Executive Director

TravTrade Update

Important Update: TravTrade Appointment Scheduling System

We are in the final stages of planning for the 2017 inaugural IITA Summit, and as we get closer to February 5th we will have many important announcements and updates for you all.  This message is to update everyone on the launch of our new appointment system powered by TravTrade.

As many of you are aware, we had originally planned on launching the system on December 19th.  However, we realized that many of our members are either travelling or facing their busiest time of year, so we elected to delay appointment scheduling until the holidays have passed and we have all settled back into our routines.

The appointment software is now scheduled to go live on January 11th, 2017.

It is very important that you are registered to attend before the system goes live to ensure you the best opportunity in scheduling your highest priority meetings.  Over the next few weeks we will be updating everyone regularly with tips and details to help you take advantage of this great new tool so please be on the lookout for updates via email as well as on our website ( and Facebook page (@IITATravel).

Please get in touch any time with questions or concerns and we wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.

With Unanimous Support, Senate Passes the National Park Service Centennial Act

With Unanimous Support, Senate Passes the National Park Service Centennial Act

Centennial Bill Will Help Address National Park Needs and Engage Youth

WASHINGTON – Below is a statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association, following the U.S. Senate’s passage of the National Park Service Centennial Act that also passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week.

Championed by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) the bill will expand the Centennial Challenge, a public-private funding partnership, establish and fund a national parks endowment, and provide additional opportunities for young people and volunteers to serve in and learn from our parks.

This bill includes provisions proposed to Congress by the Obama Administration and passed with broad bipartisan support by the U.S. House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate.

“Today’s passage of the National Park Service Centennial Act, with broad support by Congress, clearly illustrates that national parks can be a place where Americans can unite. This year marks the centennial of the National Park Service and what better way to commemorate this momentous year than by sending this bill to President Obama’s desk in his remaining days in office.”

“Our national parks safeguard our most significant places but face funding levels that are not adequate. Our park superintendents face tough decisions for distributing resources to maintain trails or repair historic buildings and are forced to cut youth education programs. Passage of this bill will help by advancing smart, effective initiatives that fund maintenance needs in our parks and enrich visitors’ experiences.”

“One initiative is the Centennial Challenge Fund, a proven public-private partnership that uses federal funding to leverage private dollars for our national parks. Also, the bill establishes an endowment to build long-term funding support for our parks as they start their next 100 years.”

“As the Park Service concludes its centennial year, there has never been a better time for Congress to help restore America’s national treasures. We hope the new administration and the next Congress continue this progress of better funding our national parks and directly addressing its $12 billion infrastructure repair backlog.”

Background: The National Park Service Centennial Act (H.R. 4680) will help address some of the $12 billion in needed repairs to park infrastructure, such as unmaintained trails and deteriorating buildings and structures that help tell America’s story but are in danger of falling apart. These delayed repairs hamper visitor access and enjoyment just when parks are experiencing record-breaking attendance as they celebrate their centennial year. The legislation would also help fund educational programs to better connect younger Americans to parks.

Funding for these national park needs would come in part from formally establishing and providing dedicated funding for the Centennial Challenge, a proven and successful public-private partnership that leverages federal funds with private dollars for visitor-oriented projects in our national parks. Another important funding component is the establishment of an endowment to provide a path toward the long-term fiscal health of our national parks.

There is a successful track record for leveraging private dollars when Congress commits to a federal match. Over the last two years, a federal investment of $25 million from appropriated dollars cultivated twice that amount in private donations. This money was used for such projects as improving visitor walkways in Yellowstone and making critical repairs to the Old State House in Boston.

Other policy provisions provide clear authority to the National Park Service for better interpretation and education programs, offer additional opportunities for young people and veterans by expanding the Public Land Corps, and allow for extra funding support for volunteer programs.

Examples of past projects Centennial Challenge funding:

Yosemite National Park (California): Improved hydrology related to roads and trails to benefit the giant sequoias; reconfigured the Mariposa Grove Road near the south entrance to enhance safety and traffic flow; added over 20 new accessible parking spaces; provided two miles of new pedestrian trails; and restored nearly four acres of giant sequoias and wetland habitat. Total cost: $5.1 million; partner (The Yosemite Conservancy) match: 80 percent.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho): Helped restore and enhance the original and only year-round entrance to the world’s first national park by improving walkways, reducing traffic congestion and updating signage. Total cost: $2 million; partner (Yellowstone Park Foundation) match: 75 percent.

Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts): Completed critically-needed restoration of wooden cupola section of the Old State House, replaced outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, and provided handicap accessibility to the building. Total cost: $1.4 million; partner (Bostonian Society) match: 50 percent.

About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information,


Smoky Mountains Communities Unite to Support Area Tourism

 Dec. 5, 2016 Sevier County, Tennessee

As the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee begin the recovery process following the Nov. 28 wildfires, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County (Tennessee) tourism officials have united to reinforce a strong message delivered by Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner.

“If you really want to do something for Gatlinburg, come back and visit us,” Werner said in a Nov. 30 press conference, encouraging visitation as a show of support to the popular vacation destination located next door to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most visited. Werner lost his home and business in the fire.

The area has received an overwhelming outpouring of donations, phone calls and support from community members. First responders from across the country helped battle the blaze.

“The generosity and concern shown to our community is a blessing beyond words,” said Mark Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But it has also reinforced to us that our community is not just here at home. Our community is all the folks who have visited with us through the years, who feel a very special connection to our cities and these mountains. They continue to ask us how they can best help us because they, too, want to see this area rebuild.”

According to Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council Director Mary Hope Maples, tourism is the county’s largest industry. “Tourism is the lifeblood of Sevier County and its three gateway cities—Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Our tourism officials have an obligation to our residents to sustain our tourism industry to ensure that employees have jobs to support themselves and their families.”

A Community Resource Center opened on Dec. 1 to assist residents with insurance claims, unemployment filings, building permits for both residential and commercial structures, driver’s license replacement and other processes necessary during the rebuilding process. In addition, several employment agencies are on site to help displaced workers find jobs.

Sevier County tourism officials are reinforcing the message that the vacation destination’s many attractions, theatres, restaurants and lodging properties are operating as usual after recent wildfires in the area. In Gatlinburg, the area surrounding downtown Gatlinburg experienced significant losses this week; however, the heart of the city’s town is intact. The structures along Gatlinburg’s main strip still stand, including Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ole Smoky Distillery, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and the Convention Center.

Businesses in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville suffered no damages, and are operating as usual. Dollywood, the state’s most-visited ticketed attraction is open. Also, Smoky Mountain Winterfest festival, which spans all three cities, continues through Feb. 28. Restaurants and lodging properties in Pigeon Forge are operating on normal schedules.

“Many people have asked us how to help. One of the best ways to help the Smoky Mountains recover from the wildfire’s impact is to come visit us and help keep our community strong and working,” said Brenda McCroskey, Chief Executive Officer of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.

“We are happy to report that businesses along the Parkway in Sevierville, including Tanger Outlets and Apple Barn and Cider Mill, are open as usual and ready to help you enjoy your Smoky Mountain vacation,” McCroskey added.

“As we strive to keep our folks working so that they can support themselves and their families, our greater community can help us in several ways,” said Leon Downey, Executive Director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “If you have reservations, don’t cancel; come and see us during Winterfest. Consider us as you make your plans for spring break and next summer’s vacation. This will help us sustain our businesses and jobs.”

For more information about Smoky Mountain Winterfest as well as other information about visiting Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County, please visit


Busch Gardens Award

Congratulations to Sustaining Member
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions honors Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with the Liseberg “Applause Award” 


CEO Joel Manby & Park President Jim Dean accept the award

Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay has been awarded the prestigious Liseberg Applause Award from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) at the opening ceremony of the 2016 IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida.

Since 1980, the Applause Award has been presented by an international committee of theme park and amusement industry professionals to honor an amusement park “whose management, operations and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with their foresight, originality and sound business development.”

“We are honored to be recognized by the Liseberg Board of Governors and by the members of IAAPA for the prestigious Applause Award. The unique and unparalleled combination of world-class thrill rides and impressive animal collection continues to position Busch Gardens Tampa Bay as a leading family destination,” said Jim Dean, president and general manager of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. “We share this award with all of our hardworking park ambassadors.”

Expert Tips with Group Tour Media

Expert Tips with Group Tour Media


New Appointment Scheduling System

Appointment Scheduling Opens Dec.19th! Register Now for Summit!

New Appointment Scheduling System

IITA Board Chairman, Gary Schluter, Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, announced yesterday the exciting news that IITA will be launching a brand new appointment scheduling system for the 2017 Summit. Earlier this year, IITA engaged TravTrade to build a customized appointment scheduling system. TravTrade’s platform is one that many of you will be familiar with as they run the IPW Online Marketplace and IPW Online Press Room as well as some Brand USA systems.

Our platform will be the first of its kind for TravTrade, offering prescheduled appointments and individual request options. In addition to being the go to platform for appointment scheduling, the new system will hold all of the information you will need to have a successful Summit. Event schedules, marketplace appointments and attendee profiles will all be housed in the system making it easy to find anything you need. The platform is also mobile friendly!

Help us make the launch of our new system a success by registering now for Summit. Appointment scheduling will open December 19th! Information will be sent out over the coming weeks on how to access the platform, build your profile and request appointments. We will also have a webinar on December 15th to answer any outstanding questions that you may have. Stay tuned for more news from IITA and remember: Appointment Scheduling Opens December 19th!


Analyzing the Influence of International Visitors


IITA is proud to support the National Parks Conservation Association with our questionnaire on the impact and influence of international visitors.  Please take a moment to complete our brief survey and assist this great organization with their conservation efforts.

China Market Update Webinar

China Market Update Webinar

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 at 2pm EST

If you missed this great event, you can check out the webinar here!

David Huang of Chinese Host Inc.

David Huang of Chinese Host Inc.

2016 marked the U.S. China Tourism Year. Throughout the year, the Department of Commerce has been working with the China National Tourism Administration, Brand USA, the U.S. Travel Association and other partners to promote travel and tourism between the United States and China. As the second largest source of spending on U.S. travel and tourism, China is essential to the industry. There are tremendous benefits to having specialized training to understand the complexity of the China market. This webinar will examine how the U.S. China Tourism Year has been received and educate participants on how to best service and do business with the Chinese traveler. David Huang, President of Chinese Host, will provide real world, practical application strategies for working with Chinese visitors and the cultural nuances to help you best understand their needs and expectations.

David Huang is the owner and president of Chinese Host Inc. (CHD) founded in 2000. Initially, CHD started as a tour company for Chinese travelers to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. He soon added meeting and incentive services. Today, Chinese Host has grown dramatically. They operate more than 40 buses, create FIT and Group itineraries, employ a Go123 shuttle bus system, provide bespoke customized travel arrangements. They also run a  proprietary reservation and information platform for Chinese travel producers along with full service representation services in China. CHD has hosted more than one million Chinese travelers since 2011 and features key destinations and attractions in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Utah and the National Parks.

Mr. Huang volunteered to assist NCOT (Nevada Commission on Tourism) in becoming the first state to be granted an official state tourism office in China. He helped build the strategy for NTA’s China initiative, serves on MGM’s Diversity Action Council in Las Vegas which he also initiated and serves on the Visit China board for Las Vegas.

CHD has its corporate headquarters in Las Vegas with branch offices in Los Angeles and China.

Click Here to Register


Hurricane Matthew Update from Visit Florida

Hurricane Matthew Update from Sustaining Member Visit Florida


We continue to closely monitor Hurricane Matthew as it approaches Florida. As local and state authorities prepare for the storm, so too is the tourism industry. The health and safety of our visitors is our highest priority and it is vital for us to provide them with up-to-date information so they can make the most informed travel planning decisions.

VISIT FLORIDA continues to update the Travel Advisory ribbon and the Florida Now page on in concert with National Hurricane Center updates. Florida Now is a dedicated landing page that serves as the communication portal to assist people currently visiting, or planning to visit, with messages and real-time information provided by destination marketing organizations and local sources. The content on Florida Now is pulled from social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and aggregated using the hashtag #FloridaNow.

I encourage you to share local updates via social media using #FloridaNow to help visitors get accurate and current information. Sharing real-time conditions, images and videos throughout this weather event will help communicate what is happening in your area.

Given the magnitude of this storm, which could impact much of the state’s east coast and result in evacuations, we have activated our Emergency Accommodations Module. Lodging businesses just received the request to begin populating their data. This information is accessible on the Florida Now page and will assist travelers and Floridians seeking alternative accommodations when evacuating from the storm.

In addition, we continue to have ongoing communications with destination marketing organizations across the state, VISIT FLORIDA’s Board of Directors, the Governor’s Office and the State Emergency Operations Center.

Thank you for your ongoing support and for your efforts throughout this weather event. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

J. William Seccombe
President & CEO

Open Skies Decision Will Accelerate Goal of 100 Million Visitors to the U.S.

1280px-oc-135_xxlOpen Skies Decision Will Accelerate Goal of 100 Million Visitors to the U.S.

Lexington, Ky.  The International Inbound Travel Association applauds the Obama Administration for preserving existing Open Skies agreements and refusing to freeze service from Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways. In recent reports, the State Department confirmed that the Administration would not initiate formal consultations between the U.S. and the UAE and Qatar nor freeze new routes from the Middle Eastern airlines despite demands from the Big 3 legacy airlines.

“We applaud the State Department for supporting Open Skies as it will help visitors from the Middle East and connecting passengers from Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa to make the US their destination of choice,” said Chairman Gary Schluter, General Manager of Rocky Mountain Holidays Tours. “Open Skies agreements have vastly expanded international flights and visitation to the United States particularly from underserved markets, which is critical in reaching the goal set in the National Travel and Tourism Strategy of welcoming 100 million international visitors by 2020.”

IITA has advocated for this outcome since Open Skies came under attack last year, issuing statements to Secretaries Kerry, Fox and Pritzker that such a misguided change in policy would create sever economic instability in the U.S. travel and tourism industry, specifically inbound travel – the nation’s number one services export. “We’re thrilled with the outcome,” added Schluter. “And urge the Administration to consider expanding Open Skies to more foreign carriers.”

The International Inbound Travel Association is the only trade association solely representing the United States’ international inbound travel industry and U.S.-based inbound tour operators. IITA members include inbound tour operators and suppliers (lodging companies, transportation, destinations, attractions, restaurants, etc.) from across the country.

IITA Chairman Appointed to Travel & Tourism Advisory Board

Gary_Schluter_1IITA Chairman Appointed to Travel & Tourism Advisory Board

Lexington, Ky. – Gary Schluter, Chairman of the International Inbound Travel Association and General Manager of Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, was appointed to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB). On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the appointments to the TTAB, which serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States.

TTAB members represent a broad spectrum of the travel industry, including hotels and restaurants, financial services, transportation services, as well as a variety of small and large firms from across the country. Having the voice of the inbound travel sector in the mix, demonstrates the importance of inbound tour operators in driving international business to the United States.

Schluter has 40+ years of experience in the travel and tourism industry, and as a small business entrepreneur, he owns and operates an international inbound travel company specializing in tours to the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. His company serves tour operators and travelers primarily from Australia, Europe and the UK.

“I am honored to be appointed to serve on the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board,” said Schluter. “Inbound tour operators are at the forefront of the industry driving international visitation to the United States. As Chairman of IITA, I will bring the voice of our members to the TTAB as well as be strategically positioned to engage grassroots support and advocacy on issues like Visa Waiver, infrastructure planning and stimulating travel.

IITA Launches New Website

The IITA just launched our new website. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. We would love to have your feedback on the site. Please email us at and let us know what you think.


noun | ex·per·tise | (/ˌekspərˈtēz,ˌekspərˈtēs/)
Expert skill or knowledge in a particular field.Expertise is a word that is overused. It is a word that conveys strength, trust and reassurance, yet it is hard to find. Why?
Sometimes expertise is right under your nose. But does it count if it’s not recognized? Does it count if it’s not being utilized?

The time has come to recognize and utilize our expertise.

The Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan is the host hotel for the 2016 RSAA Summit. To reserve your overnight accommodations please call 1-888-233-9527 or click here. Reference Summit 2016/RSAA to receive the group rate of$179 plus tax per night. Discounted room rates are available until January 19, 2016.
Gray Line/CitySightseeing New York will donate a portion of RSAA sales to help support future RSAA programs and initiatives. Click here to book airport transfers, sightseeing tours, theater tickets and more.

What’s new at the IITA

IITA has been hard at work forging relationships to strengthen the U.S. inbound industry and promote IITA members in the international travel community.

IITA Announces Second Trade Mission to Brazil
IITA will be conducting its second annual trade mission to Brazil in September. Space is limited to 10 participants in order to facilitate greater interaction with outbound operators. Deadline for registration is July 24.

IITA and Brand USA Announce Partnership
IITA and Brand USA’s new partnership will focus on the periodic MegaFams conducted by Brand USA. IITA will conduct follow-up with MegaFam participants by providing receptive tour operator information to them, while IITA will provide MegaFam participant information to receptive members.

IITA Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Discover America-Taiwan
IITA and Discover America-Taiwan recently signs an agreement pledging cooperation between the two group on education and marketing opportunities.

IITA to Distribute Member Information in India, Brazil and China
IITA is creating special member directories to be disseminated by staff (in Brazil at the VUSA-Brazil show) and by the Visit USA-India committee (at the VUSA Mice Show) and the US Commercial Service in China.

IPW Adopts IITA Definition of Receptive Tour Operator
Receptive tour operators at IPW must meet IITA’s definition of receptive tour operator in order to qualify for attendance in that category. IITA’s receptive tour operator definition may be found on the IITA homepage.

IITA Chairman Jonathan Zuk re-appointed to Travel and Tourism Advisory Board
IITA Chairman Jonathan Zuk will serve a second term on the Department of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.

Summit 2015 to feature delegations from Brazil and Taiwan
The 2015 IITA Summit (to be held Feb. 3-4 in Las Vegas) will once again feature a delegation from Brazil as well as a small contingent from Taiwan, a first for IITA. Registration for the 2015 Summit will open in mid-October 2014.

IITA Signs MOU with Braztoa
The International Inbound Travel Association (IITA) is pleased to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Braztoa, the Brazilian Tour Operator Association. The agreement pledges that both groups will work together on educational and marketing efforts to facilitate travel to the United States.

“IITA members view Brazil as an important market today and a vital one tomorrow,” said IITA chairman Jonathan Zuk. “Our partnership with Braztoa, in addition to our relationship with the U.S. Commercial Service, will help our members gain the knowledge, information, and contacts necessary to provide Brazilian tourists with outstanding products and services in the United States.”

“IITA is pleased to be able to create opportunities for members to learn about the Brazilian market. We look forward to working with Braztoa to create new educational and business opportunities for our respective members,” said IITA executive director Matt Grayson.

Recognized as one of the most important and representative nationwide Brazilian tourism organizations, the Brazilian Tour Operators Association (BRAZTOA) brings together the most prestigious companies in the industry. The association currently has 97 members, which account for approximately 90% of tour packages sold in Brazil. Braztoa members include tour operators and firms representing domestic and international products and destinations.

A non-profit organization, BRAZTOA promotes actions and partnerships to add value to the business activities of members and support the sustainable development of the tourism market. The objectives of the association include the promotion of its members in an organized market, with free enterprise and fair competition.

DHS Streamlines Visa Waiver Travel Process

The United States is phasing out its requirement for visitors to manually complete the green CBP Form I-94W paper arrival/departure document. This applies to air or sea travelers who are citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and who have received prior travel authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

The work to eliminate the form started as a result of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collaborated with the airlines, other federal agencies and industry partners to conform to the new requirements. Since January 12, 2009 all nationals of VWP countries have been required to apply for a travel authorization via ESTA before traveling to the United States. This will affect over two-thirds of overseas travelers to the United States.

Information collected from other automated sources related to the passenger’s itinerary (APIS, US-VISIT, admission record, the machine readable passport, etc.) have enabled DHS to create an electronic I-94W record for travelers that seek admission at U.S. air and sea ports of entry.

In addition to the security features made possible by ESTA, as outlined in the DHS press release <>, the new electronic I-94W document will offer processing advantages:
Enhanced Data integrity (elimination of manual keypunching and interpretation of handwritten entries),
Quicker data turn-around for reporting purposes, in the long term,
Enhanced matching of arrival to departure records, and
Continued use of all data fields included in the current I-94W form.
After a successful pilot program, the automated processing is now being implemented for all carriers at all U.S. international gateway airports. Total coverage is expected by the end of this summer.
The I-94W forms will continue to be required at land borders; in case of system outages; and when deemed operationally necessary. Also, the I-94 white paper document, for citizens from non-Visa Waiver Program countries remains in effect for the foreseeable future.

As a result of DHS/CBP cooperation with airlines and all federal users there is currently a seamless transition to the automated system. OTTI and DHS/CBP will continue to deliver international arrivals data to industry users.