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A Select Gathering: Join Your Friends in French Lick

Attendees of the 2019 Select Traveler Conference will enjoy a resort lifestyle during the three-day gathering February 10-12 in French Lick, Indiana. Located in rural southern Indiana and surrounded by the Hoosier National Forest, the French Lick Resort promises to inspire many conference attendees to bring groups of all kinds to this splendid property.

“We felt that Select Traveler’s market is a great group to bring here, not only to see the resort, but that part of Indiana,” said Joe Vezzoso, the French Lick Resort’s vice president of operations and sales. “People will be really surprised at what’s there. We’re on 3,500 acres and have two magnificent properties dating back to 1845.”

The resort includes two historic lodgings known as the French Lick Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel. The two hotels, just a short distance apart, were united into a single resort in 2015 following a massive $600 million restoration project spearheaded by the local Cook family, which owns a global medical device manufacturing company. Together, the hotels offer 686 sleeping rooms as well as a casino, impressive event and meeting spaces, challenging golf courses and a wide assortment of attractions close to the resort.

“Travelers have been coming to our area for more than 100 years to enjoy our luxury hotels, the gracious hospitality we offer, and to indulge themselves in all of the history and tradition,” said Kristal Painter, executive director of Visit French Lick West Baden, the local convention and visitors bureau.

Busy Schedule

The highlight of every Select Traveler Conference is a trio of marketplace sessions in which travel planners sit down with travel industry representatives to talk about bringing groups to their sites. There are hundreds of these six-minute meet-and-greet interviews scheduled throughout the conference. Travel planners, who represent banks, college alumni groups and chambers of commerce, come away with dozens of ideas about where to take their groups.

“I’ve seen so many options here I don’t even know where to start,” said John Bowler of Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, during last year’s Select Traveler Conference. Planners said they never stop searching for different trip destinations.

“I’ve done this work for 50 years now but still want new ideas,” Nadean Meredith of Commercial Bank in Middlesboro, Kentucky, told Select Traveler Magazine. These loyalty program directors see the conference as a great investment in future business relationships and travel club membership.

The conference begins with registration on Sunday morning. In the afternoon, delegates who are with banks and other loyalty programs will have their own breakout sessions to discuss issues of great importance to them. Delegates will be broken into groups so they can have input into the discussions of these issues that affect all such travel programs. Participants will find that the problems they encounter in their trip planning are often shared by other travel colleagues around the country.

The conference’s first evening event is always memorable and highly rated. Delegates won’t be disappointed this year with the dinner, music and entertainment provided by their French Lick hosts. The dining hall will be transformed into a combination club and speakeasy, according to organizers. There will be roaming characters in period costume, historic cars on display and lots of surprises and fun.

Inspiring Speakers

Outstanding speakers address delegates at the Select Traveler Conference. The speakers are wide-ranging: motivators, storytellers, humorists, corporate trainers and travel experts. The 2019 conference will once again offer many talented presenters, who each bring content that delegates can use.

Occasionally, college athletes suffer career-ending injuries, but a woman who will address the Select Traveler Conference turned her athletic heartache into a fresh mindset and a deep passion. Amber Selking was a University of Notre Dame soccer player whose career ended prematurely. Rather than mope, she created a positive mindset for the future and now brings her mental training methods to improve the performances of others. She is the founder of the Selking Performance Group, an organization that strives to build championship mindsets. Clients include employees of Fortune 500 companies, as well as athletes and coaches. Her energetic speaking style is coupled with an ability to take complex concepts and explain them simply. Selking will address delegates on the first day of the conference during what is known as the Super Session.

On day two of the conference, the keynote speaker will be Bob Pacanovsky, who specializes in training business operators to improve their customer service. He will ask audience members whether they prefer to receive ordinary customer service or what he calls “black-tie customer service,” with the staff going above and beyond the usual. Pacanovsky will explain that doing the little things when presenting your product or service can reinforce the bigger things. He asks whether business operators are using a personal touch, such as asking customers good questions and then listening to their answers. Pacanovsky will emphasize that business owners need to create a mindset, a culture and an atmosphere that lets the customer feel that he or she is buying from a caring salesperson, not just a company.

In addition, numerous travel experts will present trip ideas to the delegates during meal times, in between marketplace sessions and the entertainment offerings. Companies expected to present over the three days are U.S. Tours, Trips, Collette, Globus, Mayflower Cruises and Tours, and MSC Cruises, among others.

French Lick Year-Round

Because of the busy marketplace schedule for the Select Traveler Conference, there are no planned delegate tours of the area nor any formal FAM tours. However, the CVB will be glad to provide information on any of the attractions on the resort property and in the surrounding areas.

While some attractions are available to visit during the winter months, the optimal FAM tour times of the year are spring, summer and fall, according to the CVB’s Painter.

“For example, nearby Patoka Lake, which offers the scenic boat cruises, the wine and lunch and dinner cruises, schedules April to October,” she said. “French Lick Scenic Railway operates March through December, ending with the running of the popular Polar Express. The up-close animal encounters with elephants at Wilstem Ranch runs March through November.” The same goes for Abbydell Hall, located on the former estate of basketball great and local native Larry Bird and now a dinner theater with Branson-style family shows March through December.

Delegates may want to spend some time at one of the resort’s two spas. The Spa at French Lick is a traditional American facility, and the Spa at West Baden is more European in style and reminds visitors of some of the most elegant luxury spas in London or Paris. Guests can indulge in hydrating facials, mineral baths and aromatherapy, as well as a proper tea served in the spa atrium.

In season and out, visitors to the resorts enjoy the restaurants, swimming pools, golf, shopping, bowling alley and arcade. Horseback riding is popular, so are the carriage rides and bike and walking tours. Groups can also use the resort as a jumping-off point for other fun activities in the greater region. There are hardworking and creative Amish communities with their distinctive lifestyles, foods and artwork to the west. Beautiful Spring Mills State Park is up north, and the famed limestone walls and cliffs are nearby and ready to scale. Speaking of heights, there is a 4,000-foot canopy zip-line tour to try. In addition, some visitors enjoy the thrill of an ATV adventure tour.

Religious-history lovers might want to visit the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand for inspiration. The French Lick Winery and a distillery called Spirits of French Lick both produce delicious adult beverages that can be sampled on-site or purchased as souvenirs.

Besides the resort’s magnificent hotels, visitors may choose to enjoy the nearby cottages, cabins and condos, which offer a variety of sleeping arrangements for families, larger family reunions or traveling groups.