coastal wildflowers

Partner Resources for Global Tourism Development

 Table of Contents

Partner Newsletters Archive

The Tourism Development Team sends out newsletters to Sonoma County partners on a quarterly basis. These newsletters contain updates from the team in regards to their activities, new product/experiences getting picked up by the travel trade, serving as an additional touchpoint throughout the year.

FY 18-19 Newsletter Downloads:

Partner Education Sessions

The Tourism Development Team provides educational opportunities for Sonoma County partners to learn more about the ever-changing Travel Trade landscape. Sessions may be hosted at the Sonoma County Tourism offices in Santa Rosa, or at a Sonoma County partner venue. Below, please find PowerPoint downloads for past Partner Education Sessions:

FY18-19 Session Downloads:

  • Around the World in 30 Minutes (April 2019)
  • Booking Experiences Made Easier: Introducing FareHarbor (January 2019)
  • How to work with Travel Trade & a closer look at the AAA Travel Program (November 2018)
  • Introduction to Tourism Development & the Global Travel Trade (September 2018)

Travel Trade & Luxury E-Guides

The Tourism Development team has many resources it shares with its network of Travel Trade contacts. Feel free to check out the e-guides that are frequently shared (please keep in mind, these serve industry professionals, and were not designed to be consumer-facing):

Travel Trade E-Guide

Luxury E-Guide

Travel Industry Organizations

Visit California (VCA)

Visit California is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state's travel industry – that inspire travel to California. Travelers spent $132 billion in 2017 in California, directly supporting more than 1.1 million California jobs and $10.9 billion in state and local tax revenue.

US Travel Association

The U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry that generates $2.4 trillion in economic output and supports 15.6 million American jobs. U.S. Travel operates as a 501(c)(6) organization.


As the destination marketing organization for the United States, Brand USA's mission is to increase incremental international visitation, spend, and market share to fuel the nation's economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide.

Prominent Travel Industry Consortia & Operators

Some of the most well-known consortia include VirtuosoSignature Travel NetworkEnsemble Travel Group and Here's a little information about them:


Virtuoso is a network of luxury travel agencies, with more than 11,400 travel advisors across the globe. It also includes 2,000 preferred suppliers, such as cruise lines, hotels, and tour operators. Together, they work for a common goal: providing exclusive travel experiences for consumers. 

Signature Travel Network

Created by a group of agency owners in 1956, Signature Travel Network has grown continually since then. It includes more than 6,000 agents in the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand.

Signature is a member-owned cooperative. Members receive benefits in the categories of marketing, technology, and training. The company is headquartered in Marina del Rey, California with offices in New York City. is North America's largest travel services marketing organization. It serves independent retail agencies in the US and Canada. The consortium is owned by Travel Leaders Group, America's largest travel agency company. 

Ensemble Travel Group

Established in 1968, Ensemble Travel Group is a member-owned and member-run organization of independent travel agencies in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Member benefits include unique consumer vacation products; integrated marketing programs that include database segmentation; the latest technology platforms and tools as well as business coaching, training, and collaborative networking.

Ensemble is based in New York City, with Canadian offices in Toronto and Montréal; and an Australia/New Zealand office in Sydney. 


Glossary of Travel Trade Terms

What is Travel Trade? It is the collective term for tour operators, travel agents, international inbound tour operator (receptive operators), and wholesalers. Businesses looking to expand their promotions can work with these professionals to expand their marketing reach to increase sales. 

Below are some additional industry terms relevant to working with the travel trade:

FAMs/Familiarization tour: Organized trips for travel trade professionals for the purpose of educating and 'familiarizing' them with tourism destinations. By experiencing the destination firsthand, they are better prepared to promote travel to their customers.

FIT (Free Independent Travel): Individual travel in which a tour operator has previously arranged blocks of rooms at various destinations in advance for use by individual travelers. These travelers travel independently, not in a group, usually by rental car or public transportation.

Global distribution system (GDS): An international computer reservation system that accesses many databases of suppliers, airlines, etc. in different countries, such as Sabre, Amadeus, and Travelport.

Online Travel Agency (OTA): An online travel agency can be utilized by a traveler to book everything they need for their trip in one place. This can include making hotel, flight, and in-destination reservations like tours, attractions, activities. Examples of OTAs include Expedia, Tabikobo (Japan), and Hotelbeds.

Tour Operator: Develops, markets, and operates group travel programs that provide a complete travel experience for one price and includes transportation (airline, rail, and motorcoach), sightseeing, selected meals, and an escort. Some tour operators market directly to the consumer, while other tour operators work through travel agents to reach consumers. Some example of tour operators would be TUI, Thomas Cook, and CRD.

Travel Agent: An individual who arranges travel for individuals or groups. Travel agents may be generalists or specialists (cruise, adventure travel, conventions, and meetings). The agents may receive a commission from the accommodations, transportation companies, and attractions for coordinating the booking of travel. They typically coordinate travel for their customers at the same or lower cost than if the customer booked the travel on his/her own.

International Inbound Operators (Receptive Tour Operators): A receptive tour operator is a domestic operator that specializes in tourism experiences and manages products and services for incoming visitors, most often booked through international tour operators. International inbound operators play an important role in the packaged travel industry. Some examples of tour operators would be Bonotel, Hotelbeds, and ATI.

From the Inbound Report - What is a Receptive Tour Operator (RTO)? The straight definition. An RTO is:

  • A B2B gateway to international visitors/travelers through the trade
  • A wholesaler to wholesalers and travel agents
  • A financial intermediary between U.S. suppliers and international wholesalers
  • A hotel room aggregator for resale via overseas travel agents

RTOs offer:

  • FIT online booking systems
  • Escorted group tours
  • Fly-Drive programs
  • M.I.C.E. tour programs
  • Meet and greet and ground services

Wholesaler: An individual or company that sells tour packages and tour product to travel agents. Tour wholesalers usually receive a discount from accommodations, transportation companies, and attractions and pass on a percentage of that discount to the retail agents. Examples of a wholesaler would be Funjet Vacations, Apple Vacations, and STA Travel.

For a larger glossary of travel industry terms, please visit here.

Back to top

Back to homepage