International travel agents descend on Alabama

(Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
Updated: Nov. 30, 2018 at 4:24 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A group of nearly two dozen international tour operators, or travel agents, has descended on Alabama, and they’re not here to rest and relax. Their work will be critical to attracting international tourists to the United States, and possibly Alabama.

The operators visiting Alabama are coming from places like Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, and if they’re impressed with what they see while visiting, they’ll potentially return home with plans to create tours for their clients.

“All of these are top targeted markets to Alabama where people want to travel. So the potential visitors from all of these destinations is quite huge,” said Grey Brennan, the executive director of the Alabama Department of Tourism.

The department said most of the time international tourists go through a tour operator when planning trips.

“Especially coming from overseas, they’re not going to go to one place," said Brian Jones, the public relations officer with the department.

Jones said these tour operators give their clients itineraries and book hotels. In 2017, there were 362,000 international visitors who spent $589 million in Alabama.

Tourists - and their cash - can have a very big impact on a local economy, and the Alabama Department of Tourism is taking notice of the opportunity. After all, it’s not very often these agents come for a visit.

Jodie Collins is a tour operator with Luxery Escapes in Australia. They produce articles and have a television show.

“We really like looking to find out more about real hotels and destinations that we can provide something really special and neat for our clients,” Collins said.

Multiple stops are being surveyed as part of the agents' visit. Some of the cities include Muscle Shoals, Florence, Birmingham, Bessemer, Selma, and Montgomery.

“So we want to showcase the authentic America," Brennan said. "The history we have here in the South.”

For part of the trip, Collins visited the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery and the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma.

“Seeing this bridge here right now and it was such an incredible movement," she said. "I’m really honored to be on this trail. And see what people went through to get where we are today. I think it’s a must to come to Alabama and experience this for yourself.”

These agents have the power to literally put a destination on the map for world explorers, and Alabama officials are hoping they chart new courses into the Deep South.

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