Travel South--Confessions of a First-Timer
Entertainment, food, nonstop activities and people willing to talk your ear off were on the menu del dia, and the waitstaff just kept coming. This year’s showcase, hosted by the Richmond Metro CVB, managed to pull my heartstrings more than a little and threaten to stretch my waistband a whole lot. I was one of 35 media representatives from all over the US and Canada and, as a neophyte to both Travel South and to trade shows in general, I felt both privileged to be invited and more than a little humbled in the face of all the experienced journalists and photographers attending, not to mention all the sales reps, VPs, various directors, managers and other professionals who were all a lot more experienced than me. I even found myself, at one point, wearing a little more makeup than I usually wear so that I would look older. I became more comfortable, though, as I spent time with everyone on the various activities the showcase had planned for us. Every meal was sponsored by one of the suppliers and each had its highlights.
West Virginia’s luncheon on Tuesday featured a local actor performed a synopsis of a famous colonial survival story and a children’s choir performed. Louisiana sponsored a Louis Armstrong jazz band Monday morning and talked about the development in the state. I had to grab for a tissue a few times, and was not the only one. Saturday evening was the first event I attended. Four hundred years of Virginia music and culture in two hours was not a short order to fill.
Native dancers, bluegrass bands (both experienced players and up-and-coming talents) were featured, along with a shag band complete with gubernatorial harmonica support (Va. Governor Mark Warner made a surprise appearance to sing and play harmonica during the evening’s very confettied finale). Sunday featured daytrips to different parts of the city (complete with performances by historical actors). It was a fun way to bring the city alive in a ‘multicenturial’ way, and a great introduction for those of us who had never visited the city. Monday was all business for attendees. While suppliers, tour operators and buyers networked in the booth area, the reporters and photographers started the day at a press conference. A big topic was the redevelopment in the Gulf Coast area. The representative from Mississippi had to pause for a second, admitting that talk of the topic made him very emotional. After lunch, press continued with another tour of the city (with snacks and local wine samplings). Afterwards, we continued onto a cooking class, where we made snacks and drank local wine samplings.
After our cooking class, we went to dinner and, well, you get the idea. It felt like on-assignment Thanksgiving (but without the familial drama). Great food, fun activities. (I then understood Joey in Friends’ Thanksgiving episode. I wanted my fat pants, too.) By the evening, everyone was feeling more comfortable with each other. After dinner, there was more food and drinks at the Mardi Gras party (at this point, I couldn’t even look at the snack table), along with great music and dancing. It was a fun finale to my voyage to Travel South. In April’s issue of Leisure Group Travel (www.leisuregrouptravel.
com), look for what’s new in the region in our Travel South/Southeast regional feature. Be sure to tell us your stories from Travel South this year. Post a blog, or email me at Kelley@ptmgroups.com This article is sponsored by: www.grouptravelblog.com.