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Selling the South: Q&A with Infinity Holidays Global Sales Director Kevin Looney

As the US is Infinity Holidays' number-one sales destination, creative product development is a focus for the wholesaler. Global Sales Director Kevin Looney recently experienced the US South firsthand for the first time and shares his trip takeaways and top tips for selling the South plus their Travel South USA partnership.

As the US is Infinity Holidays‘ number-one sales destination, creative product development is a focus for the wholesaler. Global Sales Director Kevin Looney recently experienced the US South firsthand for the first time and shares his trip takeaways and top tips for selling the South plus their Travel South USA partnership.

Spill all about your Travel South USA famil.

I was fortunate to be invited on a ‘Blues, Brews & Incredible Views’ five-day pre-fam in Missouri before attending the Travel South USA International Showcase in Memphis last December. The itinerary was impeccably structured to showcase ‘the real America’ in Missouri’s small towns and its most popular and populous city, St Louis.

We were based in historic St Charles – just 20 minutes from St Louis Airport – and being there before Christmas was a superb opportunity to see the town lit up and experience the nightly entertainment. Carollers and musicians roamed around town during a captivating Electric Christmas Parade that kicked off on Main Street – it’s like visiting a European Christmas market but with a distinctive Southern flair.

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Step back in time at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image: Travel South USA.

For history buffs and literary fans, the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum is located in Hannibal, north of St Louis on the Mississippi River. Visitors can also go underground at the Mark Twain Cave Complex made famous in his classic novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It’s much the same as when he explored the labyrinths and 170 years later you can still see where he signed the cave wall.

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Feeling festive on the Day Fresh Tour at Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St Louis. Image: Kevin Looney

En route to Memphis, we headed into downtown St Louis to dive into both music at the National Blues Museum and some of the best ribs in town right next door at Sugarfire. Along with Missouri’s 160 independent craft breweries, there’s the massive Anheuser-Busch Complex in downtown St Louis where a brewery tour is essential to learn about some of the most popular US beers, including Budweiser.

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Ice skating at Kiener Plaza in St Louis. Image: Travel South USA.

St Louis is also known for the Gateway Arch, the tallest monument in the USA at 192m. Head to the top of the arch in a capsule tram – think half elevator-half Ferris wheel. The expansive views from the top extend across the city and the Mississippi River.

What were your expectations of the US South? And the reality?

I was expecting to hear plenty of music, sample some earthy bourbons and have the chance to visit some of the many microbreweries. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy all of the above and the all-encompassing music scene in Memphis – from gospel and roots to blues and rock – including the omnipresence of Elvis’ legacy throughout the city.

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Some of Elvis’ stage costumes at Graceland in Memphis. Image: Kevin Looney

It’s hard to understate how much Elvis has contributed to making Memphis a tourist hub. Visiting Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis was one of the best things I did in 2023. It’s a superb experience and the curation of memorabilia celebrating the life and career of an American legend is outstanding.

What should advisors and travellers know about the US South?

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The fam group with the Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri. Image: Kevin Looney

The South is very accessible for Australian travellers with multiple direct flights and one-stop access through the US West Coast as well as the Texas hubs of Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.

We also offer wholesale airfares for advisors to book via Infinity Holidays’ HELiO platform. We want to support agents to take advantage of the wholesale savings and set their own selling price to optimise their margins.

What experiences would appeal to Australian travellers? 

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Route 66 celebrates its centennial in 2026. Image: Beth Wiles

I think there’s much that resonates with Australian FIT travellers. There’s the ease of air access across the Pacific, a multitude of car hire companies for competitive rates and it’s easy to secure accommodation. The one exception is Nashville, which is experiencing significant demand, so booking ahead is important.

You have your gateway cities to visit but it’s also easy to freewheel around and explore on a road trip. Now’s the time to start planning for 2026 when Route 66 celebrates its centennial.

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A delicious Southern spread at Salt + Smoke in St Charles, Missouri. Image: Travel South

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the famous Southern hospitality. Southerners truly are the most hospitable and welcoming and, combined with delicious soul food and diverse music
scene, the South is where it’s at!

Infinity Holidays has previously partnered with Travel South USA and Brand USA to create exclusive holiday packages.

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The famous Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Image: Travel South USA

We ran a Travel South USA campaign in 2022 featuring city breaks in 11 states along with five road-trip itineraries and also highlighted the 15 international gateway airports in the South.

It was so successful that Brand USA partnered with us to expand the 2023-24 campaign with Infinity Holidays now the preferred B2B Australian wholesale partner.

Tell us about the current Brand USA campaign.

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National Blues Museum, St Louis.

Our Brand USA campaign features nine City Break itineraries, including a Nashville self-drive package and a stay-and-play package in New Orleans – all available to book via the HELiO platform.

We also have 25 exclusive RoadTrips USA itineraries that include Bourbon, Bluegrass & Horse Country from Tennessee to Kentucky; the 11-day Coasts & Mountains of the South from Georgia to South Carolina; and both The Southern Civil Rights Story and The Civil Rights History Trail, taking in important places where significant events occurred in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

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The National Center for Civil & Human Rights on the US Civil Rights Trail in Atlanta, Georgia. Image: Travel South USA

A standout for Australians has to be the At the Movies – Southern Sights trip – a 13-night movie-themed trail from New Orleans via the estates of the Plantation Trail to Florida’s famous on-screen scenery.

And it’s all customisable in HELiO – advisors can curate tailor-made itineraries by selecting their choice of accommodation, tours and activities, vehicle type, you name it!

More USA in 2024?

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Nashville, Tennessee is extremely popular with Aussie travellers. Image: Travel South USA

The USA is our number-one selling destination year on year. In 2024, we’ll add more RoadTrips USA itineraries to our offering, which will see Infinity Holidays RoadTrips cover 50 states, including the District of Columbia.

We’re extremely committed to making booking the US easy for our advisors by partnering with Travel South USA and Brand USA and our key supply destination partners.

We look forward to helping more advisors and their clients learn more about the South this year, including in-person events across Australia to allow agents to experience what Brand USA has to offer.

Discover more at infinityholidays.com/brand-usa

For more info and inspo, head to industry.travelsouthusa.com