There’s more to the US than the Big Apple and the Grand Canyon, as 100 agents discovered on the Brand USA MegaFam 2019, which took place from 9-17 May.
TTG caught up with three of this year’s attendees to find out more about what made their itineraries special and how they intend to use their newfound knowledge to sell the US.
Mathew Woodward, travel consultant at E Shores, experienced the Cowboy Country itinerary, visiting Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
This was Woodward’s sixth Brand USA fam trip out of seven.
“The trips always exceed my expectations and that’s why I push for sales so I can get on the trip for the following year,” he says.
Visiting a range of states this year that he’d never experienced before, Woodward said he was struck by each state’s diversity. “What stuck out was how different each state is and how many things there are to do,” he says.
One of Woodward’s highlights was visiting Texas capital Dallas (inset).
“Everyone has seen the video of JFK being shot, and we visited the bookshop where Lee Harvey Oswald fired from, at a sixth-floor window. It’s a museum now and, although not pleasant to visit, it was fascinating.”
There is no better way to sell to a client than to visit the destination, adds Woodward.
“I’ve become the go-to US guy in the office. I can give colleagues advice, answer questions, or look over itineraries if they need me to.”
David Walker, owner of The Travel Snob, joined the Tropical Territories itinerary, which escaped the bustle of the US mainland with a trip to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
“Our itinerary was very much white sandy beaches, salsa dancing and rum punch compared to visits to breweries and museums,” explains Walker.
As a complete newcomer to these destinations, Walker was blown away.
“I’ve never thought about selling these destinations, but have already sold them since I got back. I expect to get lots of bookings, and have even cancelled a personal holiday to Mexico to go back there instead!”
Walker says the highlight of the trip was St Croix with its atmosphere of inclusivity.
“One of the hotels we visited was gay-friendly and another was gay-owned. It’s a great place to go for the Caribbean vibe without worrying about feeling ostracised.”
Wendy Donne, senior travel consultant at North America Travel Service, took part in the Southern Sights itinerary, which wound its way through North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.
“I am a huge US fan. I try to visit on holiday every year. This trip really made me realise that southern hospitality is real and not just a saying,” says Donne.
She describes how she was very taken with Birmingham in Alabama where she learnt a lot about Civil Rights history.
“We had a very emotional visit to Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four African-American children were killed in a bomb attack during the Civil Rights Movement,” she says.
The experience has inspired Donne to try to encourage clients to explore lesser-known places.
“North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama have so much to offer. Clients would be able to enjoy a great mix of modern and historical cities, national or state parks, lakes, beaches, history and architecture – all joined by scenic byways and mixed with amazing hospitality and true southern charm.”