Face to face: Toby McCarrick, executive director of the Great Lakes USA

Face to face: Toby McCarrick, executive director of the Great Lakes USA

The Great Lakes USA is the largest expanse of freshwater in the world with a unique and diverse landscape

The Great Lakes USA is the largest expanse of freshwater in the world with a unique and diverse landscape

What trends are you seeing in terms of UK visitors? (inbound visitor data would be helpful). Where are they going? What kind of experiences are they looking for? 

Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan.

More and more of UK visitors are coming to the Great Lakes USA region because they are looking for something new, different, and undiscovered in the USA.  They have been to many of the 1st tier US destinations and now they want to find the real and authentic part of America. We don’t have any inbound visitor data.

What are the region’s most popular destinations at the moment? What are the fastest growing destinations?

Of course our big cities, such as Chicago, Minneapolis St Paul and Milwaukee, will always be a draw. But travellers also want to experience our vast “outdoor” offerings including our many national and state parks especially as 2016  is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. A couple of destinations that are really hot right now are Detroit and its incredible “comeback” story and Cleveland because of all the attention it is receiving as host of the Republican National Convention in a few weeks.

What are the region’s most popular visitor attractions? Anything new or notable being launched/opening this summer?

Our top attractions include many well known American icons such as the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Henry Ford museum outside of Detroit and the President Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois. The music scene with Motown in Detroit, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Prince and Bob Dylan from Minneapolis, and the electric blues sound in Chicago. And of course shopping at Mall of America in Minnesota the nation’s largest shopping and entertainment centre with over 520 stores full of tax-free shopping.

The region has some leading world icons for the British and Irish traveller that are a must see – including Route 66 which starts in Chicago, the birthplace of Motown Music in Detroit, John Deere the world’s largest manufacturer of farming machinery in Illinois, the Henry Ford Museum and factory tour in Dearborn, Michigan, , music icons such as Bob Dylan, Prince and Madonna, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio and the only Harley Davidson Museum in the World in Milwaukee.

The sun sets over Chicago and Lake Michigan
The sun sets over Chicago and Lake Michigan

What tips or advice can you give UK agents looking to sell the destination?

The Great Lakes region has three main gateways – Chicago with 7 daily flights from Heathrow Airport along with services from Manchester, and with connection flights via Iceland from Glasgow and Edinburgh.  Detroit has daily flights operated by Virgin Atlantic Delta Airlines and KLM. Daily flights from Heathrow Airport to Minneapolis St Paul are operated by Virgin Atlantic Delta Airlines, so the region has a fantastic airlift from the UK.  For Irish travellers Aer Lingus, United Airlines and American Airlines operates daily flights into Chicago from Dublin and Cork. *some flights are seasonal.

When planning fly-drive itineraries agents can now use open jaw ticketing with the three gateways, which allows the visitor to explore more States within the region.  Around 14 nights is a perfect length of time to visit at least 2-3 States with good road connections.

The accommodation varies from leading worldwide hotel brands to high end quality country B&B’s overlooking the lakeshores and stunning beaches.

What are you doing to incentivise the UK trade? Training, incentives?

Michigan and Illinois both have comprehensive training courses via OTT and Travel 2.  Our UK representation firm, Cellet Marketing and Public Relations, provide destination training and organise Fam trips for the travel trade. We attend WTM annually and run on-stand competitions for travel agents. Brochures and further information are available via our website www.greatlakesusa.co.uk or agents can order via [email protected]

Any plans for a UK marketing campaign and/or for ramping up spend?

The majority of our consumer promotions are operated in conjunction with our tour operator partners.  We get the biggest return on investment by working directly with tour operators and targeting their customers who are already predisposed to travel to the United States.

Gary Marshall
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