The Group Travel Leader

MAY 2017

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1 2 GROUP TRAVEL LE ADER T H E More than 600 delegates gathered in Branson, Missouri, March 12-15, for the first Travel South Showcase held in that top-of-mind travel destination. Over the past several decades, this dynamic city carved into the edge of the Ozark Mountains has become synonymous with entertainment and outdoor relaxation. "We had 117 tour operators and 28 travel journalists join us in Branson, and the entire state of Missouri made us feel welcome for our first-ever event here," said Travel South USA president and CEO Liz Bittner. "Missouri has added so much to the South's sphere of activi- ties and entertainment to be enjoyed by travelers since joining our organization in 2014. "Missouri rounds out our vast music heritage in the South," said Bittner. "Its contribution to blues and jazz really helps to tell the story of those genres that have so much recognition throughout the South. Missouri enhances the travel experience for many visitors to states on our western and northern edges. Arkansas and B R A N S O N B R I N G S T R AV E L S O U T H S H OWC A S E T O M I S S O U R I B Y M A C L A C Y Photos courtesy Travel South USA Kentucky, in particular, are packaged often with Branson and other Missouri destinations. It's a great fit for us, domestically and internationally." Bittner underscored the value of regional promotion that came from the event. "The media and tour operators who partici- pated in our site inspection trips came away with a new recognition of how much two states like Missouri and Arkansas benefit from cooperative marketing efforts," she said. "Until you tour the area and learn the geography, you don't under- stand how much northwest Arkansas, Branson and the Route 66 region of Missouri comple- ment each other. Travelers are the beneficiaries of that." She also noted the value of having exposure for Branson's outdoor environment. "The story of Branson's entertainment often gets top billing," she said. "Travelers need to know about places like Top of the Rock and Dogwood Canyon, or Arkansas' Crater of Diamonds and Eureka Springs. Bringing 145 tour operators and media members in here will help to tell that story." While in Branson, the Travel South USA board of directors and its media buyers met with numerous consumer media outlets during the organization's annual Ultimate Ad Challenge day. More than $900,000 of consumer media was contracted for with media like National Geographic, the Local Palate and Sojern, plus Expedia, the Food Innovations Group and the Matador Network. "The Matador Network is very cool," said Bittner. "It's a video platform for young adven- ture travelers, and we want to see those folks in our Southern outdoors very soon." For information on the 2018 Travel South Showcase being held March 18-21 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, visit w w w.travel southusa.org. A BUSY MARKETPLACE MEDIA MEMBERS MET WITH DESTINATIONS MISSOURI LUNCHEON ENTERTAINERS MISSOURI STATE TRAVEL DIRECTOR DAN LENNON WITH LIZ BITTNER

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