Sheridan Travel and Tourism staff spent a few days in Spearfish earlier this week attending the annual International Roundup travel tradeshow. The International Roundup (IRU) is billed as a business-to-business event, where, “in just two days of intensive pre-scheduled business appointments, more than 80 organizations from around the Great American West region, and nearly 50 international and domestic buyers from more than 10 countries, conduct business negotiations that result in the generation of more than $123 million in future travel to this five-state region. At IRU, buyers and sellers are able to conduct business that would otherwise be generated only through an exhaustive number of around-the-world trips.”
This show, and shows like it, are an important part of our international sales strategy — by pitching our product directly to international travel agents, receptive tour operators and buyers, we are able to tap into a traveling public we otherwise would not have the time or resources to reach (I have no doubt that I could find a volunteer willing to travel to Paris, London, Munich and Zurich to hand out flyers about Sheridan, but that wouldn’t be very cost effective). Our promotional efforts are centered on Sheridan’s three core strengths — history and heritage, the great outdoors and western lifestyle. Many of the buyers we meet with are already familiar with Wyoming, and many sell Sheridan as a stopover (between national park visits) or a destination in and of itself. It is a destination where we’re seeing substantial increases in demand from the international market, as travelers turn their attention to experiential trips to the real American West.
As national parks continue to struggle with increasing crowd sizes and tired infrastructure, and as traditional destination towns face local backlash related to spikes in visitation, Sheridan continues to grow its visitor economy with the best interests of the community in mind; I believe that because so much of what happens in this community is focused on locals first, authenticity reigns supreme.
New restaurants, outfitters, breweries, shops, boutiques and attractions are not opening solely because there’s an opportunity to cash in with tourists; they open to service a vibrant, engaged community. In turn, visitors learn this quickly — we work hard to position these attractions and activities as wholly faithful to the Wyoming experience. The result is an increase in interest in what’s new, what’s exciting and what’s engaging from a historical perspective — the buyers at shows like IRU are keenly interested in guest and dude ranch experiences, historic hotels, Indian Wars battle sites, local craft culture, western art and the epic allure of the Bighorn Mountains.
The feedback from these sellers has been fantastic: many reported new departures to Sheridan for 2019 and 2020, with some tours including two or three nights on the itinerary. And the feedback from independent travelers is even more positive — we hear consistently that “we wish we had more time to explore what Sheridan has to offer.”
My team is proud to work with community partners to present to potential visitors a truly unique Wyoming experience — one based in, above all else, the lifestyle of the American West.
Shawn Parker is executive director of Sheridan Travel and Tourism.