Monday, June 09, 2008

A Robust Future For Ag Tourism In Iowa?

Carroll-based Star Destinations president Cathy Greteman, fresh off organizing an ambitious farm-related North American agenda for German visitors, says agriculture tourism has major potential for Iowa.

"I just feel very strongly that we need to get the message out that in Iowa we have some of the neatest things to show people in agriculture," Greteman said.

She said major agricultural facilities, like ethanol plants and working farms in Iowa, are of great interest to foreigners involved in food and energy production.

"What's really great here is our agriculture and our heritage," Greteman said.

What's more, she said, places such as the Templeton Rye whiskey distillery should serve as developing draws for tourism.

"I see it as a way to promote Iowa as well," Greteman said. "Iowa is really shortchanged on tourism dollars."

In May, Star Destinations planned the ag tour for more than 30 Germans. In coming months, Star Destinations, located on U.S. Highway 71 North in the same complex with Windstar and Town & Country Travel, will work with Chinese tours.

Star is one of the first travel operators in the United States to be licensed for special arrangements with Chinese tourism. The Carroll company is marketing itself aggressively on the Internet and through other means to attract international clients. Tours from South America and other places around the globe are expected soon.

The tours will involve many potential U.S. points, but Star plans to incorporate Carroll County in as many as possible.

"We want to bring them all through Carroll," Greteman said. "That's one of our goals."

For example, the German tour group, which consisted of working farmers and some government officials, went to the Chicago Board of Trade and John Deere in Moline, Ill., before making its way to Carroll.

Seeing a blend of rural and urban is vital for such tours, Greteman said.

"It's important that they see a really modern city in the United States," Greteman said.

In Carroll County the tour group visited the POET ethanol plant, West Central Cooperative and Schenkelberg Implement.

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