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You may have heard the term receptive tour operator or the acronym RTO. But what does it mean and why is it important for Team Alberta to invest in RTO relationships?

At Travel Alberta, we understand that navigating through international selling and buying can be tricky, and we are here to support you along the way! Travel Alberta team member Rhonda Hughes, International Markets Manager, shares how RTOs can help grow your business.

Rhonda Hughes, International Markets Manager at Travel Alberta

For those new to tourism, what’s an RTO?

Rhonda: Receptive Tour Operators (RTOs) are wholesalers who specialize in destinations, such as Canada.  They contract and package export-ready (able to accommodate international demand) accommodation, transportation and experiences for global travel providers to sell as either fully independent travel packages or group travel services to the end international customer or travel agent. They directly link tourism supply and demand in international markets and help a province such as Alberta strengthen our competitive advantage and grow global market share. Travel Alberta’s international markets such as Mexico, Germany, China, Japan and the UK commonly book through RTOs. 

Why is it important for Travel Alberta to build strong relationships with RTOs ?

Rhonda: RTOs are a critical piece of the booking journey for international markets. They are experts on Canada and handle all the contracting and payment with industry suppliers on behalf of international tour operators, saving them from having to contact a multitude of providers in Canada and sign hundreds of contracts.

The RTO facilitates the distribution of Alberta industry partners’ export-ready experiences to international markets. The RTO handles all payments, insurance, translation, cancellations and currency transactions with the international tour operator. By working with the RTO, Alberta suppliers need only work with one company to see their experience be sold in over 50 countries around the world. 

What does your work with RTOs involve?  

Rhonda: RTOs are always looking for new experiences and new ways of packaging or creating new itineraries to offer to their markets. It is essential that RTOs know what there is to do and see in Alberta and have up to date information on all the existing and new experiences being offered. I work closely with the Experience Development team, who support our partners in the creation of new experiences throughout the province, to introduce these Alberta experiences to the RTOs. I also work with RTOs to explore how they can add to and diversify their product offerings and evolve their itineraries to grow tourism revenue for Alberta and better align with Travel Alberta’s strategy to drive visitation during need periods and in need areas. 

How can you influence RTOs to sell new Alberta experiences?

Rhonda: It’s important to understand the different buying cycles and opportunities for growth within each RTO. They’re always looking for new experiences to add to their product offerings. By understanding what they currently sell and to who, I can support them by suggesting experiences and itineraries that they are missing and should consider adding to their product line. They are a business and want to make money. You need to demonstrate how they can increase sales by adding and packaging the products or experiences that our industry partners have to offer.

What should industry partners know about working with RTOs?

Rhonda: It’s all about ensuring your experiences or products are featured in RTO itineraries. They sell what they know will ensure a great experience for the consumer. Establishing trusted relationships is key. It’s also important to respond to their questions as quickly as you can, before they move on to the next provider or experience that can offer what they are looking for.

How do industry partners get their experiences in front of RTOs?

Rhonda: If you are interested in working with the international market and becoming export-ready (to sell internationally) contact your Experience Development Manager who can provide you with more information on what it entails.  See the export-ready checklist developed by our Experience Development team to assess if your business meets the criteria.

If you’re interested in learning more about Travel Alberta’s international markets, please check our Market Insights.

Once your experience is ready to work with the Travel Trade, Rhonda will educate and creatively inspire RTOs to include Alberta product in their itineraries, through coaching, training, events, planning sessions and business development trips.

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