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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

A Select Setting in French Lick

The 2019 Select Traveler Conference is scheduled for February 10-12 and will have as its host not a midsize or large city, but instead a historic resort in rural southern Indiana surrounded by the Hoosier National Forest. And for travel planners, the French Lick Resort, with its two magnificent hotels as well as surrounding communities and attractions, offers plenty for tour groups to experience.

Kristal Painter, executive director of Visit French Lick West Baden, is excited about welcoming travel planners to the area.

“It means a lot to us because they’re going to experience us firsthand,” said Painter. “I don’t think words or photos can do our destination justice. Once those tour and travel planners see it themselves, they’ll be able to easily sell it to their customers.”

Everything begins with the hotels. The French Lick Springs Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered by many to be an American classic. The main building was built in 1845; the current spa wing in 1901. The neighboring West Baden Springs Hotel is a National Historic Landmark. The two hotels were restored in 2015 at a cost of $600 million. There is a free 24-hour-a-day shuttle service between them.

The busy Select Traveler Conference is being held in wintertime and, therefore, will not include formal FAM tours of the area. Painter said the prime FAM touring time is spring through fall.

“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. However, the site’s banquet hall and boutique hotel are open year-round.

“I recommend people interested in a FAM contact us for April through October visits so we can include every one of the attractions people will enjoy,” said Painter.

Still, there are some fun year-round activities to enjoy, including tours of the resort facilities.

“We can get you on those daily tours to experience the history and the magnitude of the two hotels,” said Painter. “That’s an experience groups will love. Also, the French Lick West Baden Museum, the French Lick Winery, the Bear Hollow Wood Carvers [chainsaw carvings and sculptures] and the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception are all great year-round options for groups.”

The CVB can assist with guided tours, transporting travel planners from place to place or setting up self-guided itineraries.

The CVB is still making plans but expects to host the conference’s opening night dinner, which will also include entertainment.

Register now for the 2019 Select Traveler Conference at!