I’m just back from the Netherlands, helping to spread the wonders and mysteries of Pittsburgh.
Why the Netherlands? Is there a connection to windmills and wooden shoes that Pittsburghers don’t know about? Are the Dutch so obsessed with the Heinz ketchup they put on their frites (French fries) along with mayonnaise that they think of Pittsburgh as their condiment mecca?
If that’s how you’re thinking about the Netherlands, you may not understand the appeal the ’Burgh has to Europeans. While traditional windmills are seen throughout the country, the Netherlands is a progressive modern country with citizens who love to travel.
Along with Katie Conaway, director of Domestic and International Group Sales for VisitPIttsburgh, I attended the Visit USA Netherlands Roadshow from Sept. 16-19. We’re both part of the Pittsburgh Regional Travel Collaborative, and over the three days, we met about 170 travel influencers in the Dutch towns of Zwolle, Den Bosch and Rotterdam.
Why the Netherlands? It’s simple. Hanny Fluit of Target Travel in the Netherlands, who headed up the Visit USA committee, told us that more than 750,000 Dutch citizens travel to the U.S. each year.
Those travelers will make several trips to the U.S. during their lives, Fluit said, so it’s up to their travel agents to find unique and new experiences for them.
Pittsburgh fits that bill.
“When you walk into a room of 10 people and say, ‘I just went to Vegas,’ eight people there will say, ‘Yeah, me too,’” Fluit told us. “But when you come in and say, ‘I just went to Pittsburgh and it was amazing!’ people want to hear that. They want to hear new stories about new destinations.”
With an exploding food scene, outstanding sports venues, an arts and cultural district and a craft beer industry that all punch above the city’s weight class, Pittsburgh quickly grabs the attention of the travel agents, especially after we showed them a minute-and-a-half highlight reel of the best of the Steel City.
“What a great video,” one agent said. “It looks like a great city,” said another. The best comment from any agent though, was simply, “Wow!”
Then we tell them all about Pittsburgh’s Strip District, Lawrenceville, river cruises and kayaking, great views and our reputation for friendliness. And we don’t forget to mention British Airways’ direct flights from London Heathrow to Pittsburgh International and Condor’s seasonal flights from Frankfurt, Germany.
When we tell them about the how quick our international arrivals process is compared to other airports, it’s an attention-grabber. At that moment, they realize their customers can have a pleasant arrival experience and spend a few days in Pittsburgh before moving on to other destinations.
So should Pittsburghers break out throwback Pirate jerseys of Bert Blyleven, the Netherlands-born Hall of Fame pitcher who was a member of the 1979 World Series champion “We Are Fam-a-lee” team to make Dutch visitors feel more welcome?
Maybe not just yet. We’ve still got a lot of in-market promotion to do. But the roadshow, and all the contacts we made, let our Dutch friends know that Pittsburgh has much to offer, especially for those visitors looking for something different and unique.