Steps to Success Program takes the Challenge Head On


Sweet Home Alabama logoInbound Operator members met last week in IITA’s Operator Forum, sponsored by Alabama Tourism Department, to discuss their challenges and opportunities as they rebuild business and hear reports.

The number one issue raised by operators was the lack of cooperation and understanding among suppliers due to the significant turnover resulting from the pandemic.

Peter van Berkel, IITA Chair and president of Travalco, said there has been an enormous brain drain of the international expertise and many suppliers are short-sighted rather than looking at their long-term business needs. He summed it up as FOBO.
“We all know the term FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Well many suppliers today have FOBO – Fear of a Better Opportunity,” van Berkel said. “They do not want to commit now by giving favorable rates and terms that we need for advance promotions and bookings, because the feel if they hold out they may get something better at higher rates.”
IITA’s International Inbound Steps to Success™ program address this issue head on by providing the education and training DMOs and suppliers need to effectively work with inbound operators. Steps to Success trainer Jennifer Ackerson, president of Alon Tourism Solutions, shared that suppliers often think working with the travel trade is a discounted market. However, through the training, Ackerson helps them understand that the commission offered in a net rate structure should be viewed as a marketing spend, and a nominal one at that, to reach international buyers.
“The training is proving to yield meaningful impact for tourism suppliers about the virtues of working effectively with the travel trade,” said Ackerson. “We provide the tools and resources so they are well equipped to provide products and services for FIT, Group and MICE business and the ability (and willingness) to provide net pricing for the travel trade distribution channel.”
In addition to working with DMOs to reach their stakeholders, IITA has presented Steps to Success at the American Indigenous Travel Conference and the Power of Partnership Stewardship Summit for a community of black tourism business owners.
Virtual Operator Forums are held quarterly, and Member Forums for each category are held annually at the IITA Summit, which will next be held in Memphis, February 11 – 14.