Europe and Australia are coming to the Cowboy State to experience the West, a visit that’s likely to attract more than $100 million in visitor spending to Wyoming destinations, according to figures from the Wyoming Office of Tourism.
Casper has been selected as Wyoming’s host city for the upcoming International Roundup, a tourism trade show set for next year from April 19-22. The tour will bring operators from Europe, including United Kingdom, Germany, Benelux, France, Italy and Nordic countries, as well as Australia, to learn about unique tourism opportunities in the Rocky Mountain International and Great American West Partnership.
Wyoming is one of five states in the partnership, along with Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota and Idaho.
The visitors will experience all things West, from a ride on the Oregon Trail to restaurants, breweries and distilleries capping off their Western adventurers at the end of the day.
“This event has been to Casper in the past, but this time it’s going to be a totally new experience,” Visit Casper’s Business Development Manager Luke Gilliam told Cowboy State Daily. “Since the solar eclipse came to town, this wave of development started happening in the downtown and the brewery scene has exploded. There’s been so many cool things.”
Showcasing The Cowboy State
The European and Australian tour operators won’t only learn about what Casper has to offer in the multi-day event that will feature 2,600 pre-scheduled appointments with destination representatives, showcasing what the entire state, as well as the American West region have to offer.
“People will have a full three to four days of experiences here, but international attendees will get to see largely the state of Wyoming, state of Montana, state of South Dakota, and they’ll get a lot of great experience to see the product and how they can connect destinations to sell to their clientele over in Europe,” Gilliam said. “We will work closely with the Wyoming Office of Tourism to make sure that Wyoming shows up in force.”
That will include representatives from the Sheridan Office of Tourism, Cody, Yellowstone offices of tourism, Carbon County, Sweetwater County, Rock Springs, Evanston and more.
“They will all be part of showing up and allowing their visitor’s bureaus to pitch their town and talk about what the international market is interested in,” Gilliam said. “It will be an awesome opportunity for hotel properties and experience-based organizations to come and talk about what they’ve got going on as well, and do it in a way that’s very collaborative and exciting.”
Schedules are still being finalized, but among highlights of the trip will be a ride on the Oregon Trail with Morris Carter, owner of Historic Trails West in Casper.
Morris offers authentic Conestoga wagons that are replicas of the originals that took 500,000-some people West to follow their dreams from 1841 to 1869. The Oregon Trail was a critical transportation route for those traveling from Missouri to Oregon. Three hundred or so miles of ruts from their journeys still remain. The ruts and 125 sites along the way have long been protected as historic under a 1970s act of Congress.
“(They’ll) experience the Oregon and Mormon trails and hear stories that you can’t get anywhere else, and then potentially also get the best dessert in Casper over an open flame,” Gilliam said. “So, it’s a really cool experience, and we’re excited to show it off.”
Not Just Lookie-Loos
The event will bring more than 100 regional suppliers and 40 international tour operators, all of whom are motivated buyers, Gilliam said.
These are mostly small- to medium-sized companies that specialize custom itineraries for individual clients, and they’re actively seeking out unique experiences that the West has to offer.
“We’re not meeting with somebody that’s like, ‘Yeah, you know if I see something I like, I’ll sell it,’” he said. “At the end of the day, these are travel agents and tour operators who want to find the stories that are authentic and exciting that they can take back home to their clientele.
“So, they’re packaging things, you know, with the whole state of Wyoming in mind, and they’re packaging things with certain communities in mind.”
That makes it an exceptional opportunity for a wide variety of businesses in the tourism sector to be part of the event.
“It’s our job to show up and really put our best foot forward in terms of what our community has to offer the international traveler,” Gilliam said. “It’s also an opportunity for us to really look at the authentic stories that are happening in our community whether they’re, you know, 50 years old or 50 days old, and make sure that we’re in tune with what’s going on.”
The confluence of so many tourism representatives and the format create a one-of-a-kind marketing opportunity, according to Global Partnerships Director James Scoon with Wyoming Office of Tourism.
“Communities get to showcase their charm and hospitality to the world in a tangible way that needs up elevating the entire state and region as an international travel destination,” he said in a media release. “There’s no better way to sell a community than in-person experiences.”
Almost 30 years
The International Roundup will be in its 29th iteration with the 2024 meeting, and has long been an effective marketing event for the five states that are part of the Great American West partnership.
The event is estimated to contribute $110.8 million in visitor spend in Wyoming, and an estimated $259 million in the five-state region.
But there’s more at stake than just dollars and cents, said Visit Casper’s Amanda Sewell, who is destination experience coordinator.
“It’s a chance to turn partnerships into friendships,” she said. “Buyers and sellers of foreign countries get to come together in person for the greater purpose of tourism, in hopes of enhancing the economic growth of our countries and communities.”