by Dan Dickson
Published March 12, 2018
Delegates to the annual Select Traveler Conference recently held in Louisville had a “super” time, not to mention a quite productive one. In this city known for bourbon, the Kentucky Derby and Muhammad Ali, 325 delegates worked hard during three busy marketplace sessions and took in loads of information about travel destinations and travelers’ needs. A big Super Bowl party also highlighted the gathering.
Louisville embraced the delegates. “We’re glad to have loyalty travel planners in town,” said Saundra Robertson of the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Traditionally, these planners bring groups that stay a little longer and can afford upscale experiences, including full-service hotels. Hopefully, they saw us with fresh eyes. Louisville is having a renaissance.”
“It’s the fourth time we’ve held a conference in Louisville but years since Select Traveler was here,” said Joe Cappuzzello, conference president and CEO. “Downtown Louisville has exploded with Museum Row — with the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and the Muhammad Ali Center — [and] Whiskey Row, which features the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Louisville is right up there with Nashville as a hot city. Louisville has one of the top CVBs in the country. I travel a lot, and it’s a force.”
Mac Lacy, publisher of Select Traveler magazine, shared with delegates hot trends affecting travel. “Incomes are up, taxes are down,” said Lacy. “Home values are high. We’re at a boom time for travel. Every tour operator can be on a roll. Airline competition is fierce due to inexpensive fuel prices. New routes are forming. The lodging industry is enjoying record business.”
The main purpose of the Select Traveler Conference is to pair travel program directors with destination providers for hundreds of brief yet potentially profitable appointments. Each program director came with a personal agenda.
“I’m seeking new destinations for 2019 and making connections with suppliers,” said Kathy Scego of Maries County Bank, Owensville, Missouri. “I want something different than what my competitors offer.”
John Bowler of Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, was overwhelmed with ideas. “We’ve been a junior college for a hundred years and are transitioning to a university,” he said. “We’re adding new value through travel and educational experiences. I’ve seen so many options here I don’t even know where to start.”
Nadean Meredith of Commercial Bank in Middlesboro, Kentucky, is a longtime veteran of the bank travel business. “I’ve done this work for 50 years but still want new ideas,” she said. “We want to go somewhere domestically that we haven’t been to before.”
Steve Faber of the Salem Memorial Building travel group in Salem, Ohio, said, “I’ve got a senior-citizen client base. We want day trips, then two-night, three-day trips and expand to even longer ones. We want to secure our travel base, let them know we’re still around and doing what we’ve always done.”
“I want diverse travel,” said Leslie Jerden of Truity Credit Union in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. “We host large groups where everything is provided, but I want to plan my own motorcoach tours. I know I can sell high-dollar trips, but we also need budget-friendly ones.”
Travel buyers also participated in an issue-oriented breakout session. “We talked about whether group travel has a solid future,” said Donna Ringey of Mercy Clinic Seniors in Springfield, Missouri. “As travelers age, the younger generation might not be as interested in group travel. That’s somewhat of an unknown. I also got some good best-practice ideas from the breakout.”
Betty Snitchler from Grownup Getaways in Dixon, Illinois, was on the lookout for travel trends. “Groups seem to be smaller for overnight trips,” she said. “I heard popular domestic trips include New York at Christmas, New England in the fall and unusual ones like the Calgary Stampede and Wyoming State Rodeo.”
See you next year!
The 2019 Select Traveler Conference will be held February 10-12 in French Lick, Indiana.
“French Lick Resort is a historic property, and we felt that Select Traveler’s market is a great group to bring there, not only to see the resort but that part of Indiana,” said Joe Vezzoso with French Lick Resort. “People will be really surprised at what’s there. We’re on 3,500 acres and have two magnificent properties dating back to 1845. They were completely restored 10 years ago. We’ve taken what was here in the past and reinvented it.”