Hundreds of tour companies and travel agents from across the world are in Calgary to learn about the travel opportunities they can promote to their clients back home.

About 1,800 visitors are taking part in the tourism conference at the BMO Centre, which also includes some sightseeing tours to attractions such as the mountains and Calgary's thriving craft breweries.

Kuofang Chung, a travel agent visiting from Chengdu, China, says he came to learn more about the options available for his clients.

"We want to promote more itineraries to my clients," he said.

Chung says his clients are mostly keen to see the sights, take pictures — and eat

"The meat, beef, we promote the food … and we promote the beef all the time." 

Something new

Mahendra Vakharia, who owns a travel agency in India, says that's exactly what his clients are interested in, too.

"The food is to die for, you know, there are some super food places that Calgary's got to offer and I think that needs to be highlighted more and more," he said.

Vakharia says he's also looking forward to a trip to Kananaskis this week as a potential new site to promote back home.

"That's one area we want to promote for our self-driver tourists," he said.

Kuofang Chung tourism conference

Kuofang Chung, a travel agent visiting from Chengdu, China, says Calgary is quite well known in Central China because of its oil and gas industry. (CBC)

"We do a lot of self-drive for our clients, something nice and maybe different than the routine of Calgary-Jasper-Banff-Lake Louise, which is very popular, but we want to explore newer areas."

Calgary well known

Chung says even in central China, people know about Calgary.

"I think Calgary, it's a gate to the Rocky Mountains. This city, in China, lots of people know the city because we have all your companies … because of oil. So, Chinese people know this city."

Barbara Scott, vice president of business development for Waymarker Hospitality — an Alberta hotel management company that operates in Waterton and Canmore — says she's eyeing markets closer to home.

tourism conference calgary renez-vous

Rendez-vous Canada runs in Calgary at the BMO Centre from May 9 to 12. (CBC)

"The Asia market is what everyone is talking about now, China flying into Calgary," she said.

"Really, I think that for our business, being right on the border … we're looking at attracting the U.S more. With the U.S. dollar being at the point it is, that's a real opportunity for us." 

Leisure up, business down

Tourism Calgary says while business travel dropped last year in Calgary, leisure travel is up 44 per cent.

The hope is the three-day conference will help boost those numbers even further.

Rendez-vous Canada matches buyers and sellers in a series of brief appointments designed to get lots of potential deals in the works quickly.

The conference runs May 9 to 12 at the BMO Centre. Rendez-vous Canada is held each year in a different Canadian city.