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Kalispell hosts event to boost international tourism

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Kalispell is hosting an international tourism event this week to promote Montana to international visitors.

Industry officials said international visitors stay longer and spend more than United States travelers.

The event is the 2018 International Roundup Tourism Tradeshow. It brings international tour operators from seven countries who sell travel itineraries to Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

The event has been held for over 20 years, and every four years it’s in Montana.

Last time the event was in Montana, Missoula hosted. This is the first time Kalispell has had the honor to be the host city.

Rather than just seeing pictures, tour operators from the United Kingdom, Germany and other countries danced and adventured Montana style as part of the event.

"It's really useful to come and see some of the product for ourselves,” said Jenny Saxby, with American and Worldwide Travel in the UK.

Saxby is one of over 40 international tour operators who experienced Montana first-hand this week. She told NBC Montana this event is worth attending.

"There’s lots and lots of different things in one place, and we learn about loads of product in one space, so it’s really useful when clients ask us questions about the region to have more knowledge that we've gained by being able to talk to people who live here and work here all the time," said Saxby.

An important part about international tourists discovering Kalispell is the business it brings to the region.

"These visitors tend to stay a little longer, and they spend a little bit more, and so that’s a great opportunity for some of our areas to maybe have a little bit of an earlier season or shoulder season. And also these companies tend to book further in advance," said Marlee Iverson, of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development.

The University of Montana’s Institute of Tourism and Recreation research reports in 2017 overseas visitors stayed on average 5.82 nights compared to visitors from the U.S staying five. On average, overseas visitors spend about $300 more than U.S. visitors.

"That helps out our economy, in general, not only our hotels, but our stores, our activities, retail, restaurants, all of that," said Dawn Jackson, of the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The event started on Sunday and ends Wednesday.

Jackson and Iverson hope it will bring more international tourists to the region, especially during off-season times.

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