When quarantines, closures and stay-at-home orders ground travel to a halt, organizers of the Select Traveler Conference had a decision to make. The original event, scheduled for March 22-24 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, couldn’t be held as scheduled. So the organizers chose to postpone the gathering and combine it with the faith-based Going On Faith Conference, which was already scheduled for this summer.
The combined conference will be held August 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Wichita, Kansas.
“As far as a working title, I think you would simply call it the Select Traveler/Going On Faith Conference,” said Joe Cappuzzello, CEO of The Group Travel Family, the company that organizes both conferences. “We’re still working out some of the details, but the big picture is that we’re putting the two meetings together.”
Visit Cheyenne is a partner in the canceled Select Traveler Conference. Cappuzzello praised the CVB’s new president and CEO, Domenic Bravo, as well as Jim Walter, director of sales and marketing, for their cooperation in light of the city’s losing out on the Select Traveler Conference.
“We talked to them, and they agreed with our overall plan to work with Visit Wichita to combine the conferences,” he said. Cappuzzello said Cheyenne will be guaranteed a future date to host the Select Traveler Conference when a slot opens.
Cappuzzello also commended the leadership at Visit Wichita for their cooperation in accommodating the two conferences. Susie Santo, president and CEO of Visit Wichita, and Moji Rosson, vice president of sales, led the effort.
“We look forward to the opportunity to host attendees for both Going On Faith and Select Traveler in our wonderful city,” said Rosson. “We are also excited to showcase Wichita as a must-visit Midwest destination.”
In the coming months, organizers will monitor the registration numbers for the combined conferences and figure out how to accommodate everyone. That includes possibly adding overflow hotel rooms and perhaps expanding the marketplace area, since there could be many more planners in the room than would normally attend just one conference.
“We hope to return to a new normal this summer and are expecting pretty good attendance,” said Cappuzzello. “There might still be some precautions that will need to be taken based on what state and federal health experts tell us, but our main concern will always be to protect the health of our members and staff. We won’t put anyone in harm’s way.”
In 2021, Select Traveler and Going On Faith will be held as separate conferences in separate times and places, Cappuzzello said. The combined event is a one-time occurrence.
Wichita Welcomes All
Wichita is pleased to invite additional delegates to the combined conference. City leaders already believe they are an ideal market for Going On Faith planners.
“Wichita is primed to host these kinds of groups simply because of the culture we have in the city,” said the CVB’s Rosson. “We have many different faiths represented here, and we are part of the Bible Belt.”
Convention sales manager Lindsay Gulley agreed.
“We have over 600 churches, and we are very welcoming,” she said. “The things the church groups I work with like best are the size of the city and what it has to offer. It’s easy to get to and navigate in, and we have plenty for them to do.”
Gulley thinks Select Traveler planners would want to bring their groups to Wichita for many reasons. “Wichita is a pretty lively Midwestern city located right in the middle of the country and with a lot of local pride,” she said.
Wichita has more than 8,100 hotel rooms ranging from luxury to economy. The only AAA Four-Diamond hotel in Kansas is Wichita’s Ambassador Hotel. The city’s main meeting space is the nearly 200,000-square-foot Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center with its headquarter hotel, the Hyatt Regency Wichita. The convention center also has 20 meeting rooms, a concert hall, a theater and other amenities.
Wichita is rightfully proud of its emerging downtown area.
“Over the past 15 years, downtown Wichita has been evolving into a vibrant area,” said Gulley. “There has been a lot of revitalization with restaurants, boutique shopping, breweries, art galleries and neat outdoor spaces. It’s really fun to walk downtown and see all of those things.”
Wichita is remembered for its Old West cattle-driving cowboy days. After the Civil War, the late 1860s, Wichita became a prime destination at the end of the famous Chisholm Trail. Cowboys drove an astonishing 20 million head of cattle north from Texas to the railheads in Kansas, which meant that Kansas helped deliver beef by train to a growing and hungry nation.
One of the city’s signature attractions, Old Cowtown Museum, celebrates that heritage. This living-history museum is in the Delano entertainment district near the Arkansas River, which flows through the middle of the city. The museum lets visitors immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and excitement of a Midwestern cattle town.
Fast-forward half a century: Wichita embraced the future of aviation in the 1920s and 1930s when business leaders and aeronautical engineers established such elite aircraft manufacturing companies as Cessna, Beechcraft and Stearman Aircraft. Aviation luminary Charles Lindbergh visited the city often. Famed flier Amelia Earhart was a Kansas native. In the late ’40s, Wichita operated one of the busiest airports in the U.S. because it was the main midcontinent stopover for the burgeoning commercial airline industry.
Sightseeing for Delegates
Visit Wichita is planning to offer several sightseeing options to delegates of the Select Traveler/Going On Faith Conference. One will be a preconference tour to see the B-29 Doc Hanger and Education Center.
Doc is the nickname for the World War II-era B-29 Superfortress aircraft. About 1,644 of these planes were manufactured in Wichita, and one of them has been restored and made airworthy. It serves as an active flying museum and a glimpse into Wichita’s important role in aviation history. Another preconference tour may include Tanganyika Wildlife Park, where visitors get close to many rare and endangered animals
The park’s mission is to be a steward of these unusual creatures and share their mystery and beauty with the public.
There will be sightseeing tours during the conference itself. One will likely be a history trip with stops at the iconic “Keeper of the Plains” statue and plaza, as well as the adjoining Mid-America All-Indian Center. Also included on this tour is the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum. One of the evening events will take place at the Old Cowtown Museum. A third sightseeing tour will be “sweet”: Participants will visit the Nifty Nut House; Cocoa Dolce Chocolates; the Spice Merchant; and Peace, Love and Pie.