By Dan Dickson
Published March 18, 2016
One of the nice things about attending a conference is getting to know the city in which the meeting is held. Select Traveler Conference delegates found out that their host city, Little Rock, Arkansas, knows how to show folks a good time.
The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau threw an unusual Super Bowl party for its guests a few blocks from the convention center and hotel in the city’s popular River Market District. Delegates were each given a special Super Bowl “ticket” for the night’s festivities. On the back was a list of eight restaurants and bars at which delegates could eat and drink all they wanted as they watched the big game on television. The restaurants featured everything from burgers and pizza to hot chicken.
Rosie Mosteller of Dalton Whitfield Senior Center in Dalton, Georgia, loved the idea.
“It was an awesome experience,” she said. “I like the idea of strolling down the street and seeing Little Rock and choosing where you want to have dinner with great people. It was perfect.”
Doreen McKinney of Mascoma Savings Bank in Lebanon, New Hampshire, agreed as she munched her meal at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.
“I think it was great because there were so many choices for everybody,” she said. “Not everyone likes the same things. We could try different foods. We wouldn’t find this spicy fried chicken back home.”
Two others had praise for the city and the convention hotel.
“They had signs all over the town saying ‘Welcome Select Traveler,’ and the way they brought in the Central High School band to welcome us was great,” said Mary Beth Kurasek of Busey Bank in Champaign, Illinois. “I’ve never been to a conference where you could go from restaurant to restaurant, including alcohol. It was impressive.”
Jean Jech of Home Federal Savings Bank in Rochester, Minnesota, enjoyed the hotel.
“I think the Marriott is the nicest we’ve ever experienced,” she said. “The staff was exceptional, very welcoming, friendly, caring, and went out of their way for us.”
“It’s been an incredible thing for Little Rock,” said Alan Sims of the city’s CVB when asked about the conference’s impact. “I asked people how many were here for the first time, and even I was amazed at the number of hands I got. The exposure we got and the clients who were here were both positive.”
Other conference events were a dinner sponsored by next year’s conference host, the Greater Ontario, California, Convention and Visitors Bureau, which included a rocking live rhythm-and-blues band playing oldies. Conference attendees were quick to hit the dance floor.
A breakfast sponsored by East Coast Touring Company woke everyone up: A three-man band from Memphis gave attendees a musical history lesson as they played hits from the famed Million Dollar Quartet of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. The second breakfast of the conference, sponsored by Trips, featured Kenya, one of that company’s longtime specialties, and Masai tribesmen stayed afterward to take photos with delegates.
Delegates enjoyed a mixer before dinner on the second night of the conference sponsored by MSC Cruises, a new sponsor at the conference.
Two luncheons featured longtime tour operator sponsors, both of whom delivered international flair. In one, Collette brought in a bagpipe and drum corps to promote the wonders of Scotland. The second, sponsored by Globus Family of Brands, featured a dynamic visual presentation from its destination partner, the Israel Ministry of Tourism.