Mario Santander, American Airlines; Hannah Jones, Flight Centre Customs Street; Cody Baggenstos, Flight Centre High Street; Meetesh Patel, Flight Centre Parnell at the Travel South USA event in Orleans, Auckland last night Mario Santander, American Airlines; Hannah Jones, Flight Centre Customs Street; Cody Baggenstos, Flight Centre High Street; Meetesh Patel, Flight Centre Parnell at the Travel South USA event in Orleans, Auckland last night

Event gives agents ‘more depth’

Helping agents join the dots between major cities for their clients and giving them more depth in what they sell were key objectives of the Travel South USA event in Auckland on the 19th June.

Grey Brennan, of Alabama Tourism Department, is one who would like more Kiwis to get off the beaten southern track.

‘We’re so close to the well-known cities and we know people would love to visit Sweet Home Alabama if they knew more about it.’

Brennan points out that Alabama’s attributes include the US Space & Rocket centre, the legendary studios of Muscle Shoals and the barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.

Rachel Obermeier, trade bureau manager with Mississippi Development Authority is another who would like New Zealanders, especially those on a self-drive itinerary, to do more than head quickly from New Orleans.

‘A place like Mississippi can add the filling to a sandwich on a road trip.’

About 100 agents and media attended the event (appropriately at the Orleans venue) and Travel South USA president and chief executive officer Liz Bittner says the turnout of 27 American delegates shows the importance of Australasia to the southern states.

‘Arrivals from Australia and New Zealand were up 53% year end 2016 over 2015 and we credit the Kiwi market with a lot of that. This year we’re seeing a massive increase in self-drive programmes, 112%, and again New Zealanders play a role there.

‘We’re here not only to acknowledge the increase in business but also to make sure travel agents have better resources for their clients.

‘We want to help them sell more depth in their itineraries – where are the best local hangouts and the honky tonks, how long should a client stay in a place and how can the clients be better matched to the destinations?’

‘We know the bigger cities will always have appeal but we want people to also explore the smaller places and have them on the itinerary.’

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