Planters Passport 50 Club members in Abingdon, Va., courtesy Carolyn Cobb
Many bank travel managers are learning that excursions to the Southeast make a pleasant diversion from long-distance travel.
Planners from as far away as Illinois and Texas love taking their members to the region. We spoke with five bank travel managers to find out about their favorite destinations in the Southeast and discovered that their groups enjoy the diversity and beauty of the region from Louisiana and Arkansas to Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and the Carolinas.
South From Chicago
Betty Snitchler directs the Four Seasons Club for Sterling Federal Bank in the northwest Illinois city of Sterling, 100 miles from Chicago. “We’re out in farm country, so our towns are a bit smaller than most” is how Snitchler described her turf.
The winters can be brutal, so a getaway to the Southeast is a welcome respite.
“We enjoy it there, especially when it’s been very cold here,” she said. “We go in the spring, and it’s a joy to see the greenery. I remember people looking out the windows of the motorcoach and feeling good because it was green and sunny and flowers were blooming.”
New Orleans is a frequent and pleasurable trip for Sterling members. The French Quarter has a special allure.
“My husband and I accompanied our travelers to Bourbon Street three straight nights. We went to piano bars; sipped New Orleans Hurricanes and Grenade drinks; enjoyed street performers, music and, of course, food. Every day, someone else told a story about the night before, and the group begged to go again,” said Snitchler.
Sterling Bank members also enjoy Nashville, Tennessee, and the Grand Ole Opry and Opryland Hotel. “They have a wonderful holiday package. People just love that,” said Snitchler.
In Kentucky, Lexington and Louisville are musts. A tour and tasting at Maker’s Mark bourbon distillery is interesting. The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are popular. So, too, is George Vanderbilt’s extraordinary home and beautiful gardens, known to the world as Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, North Carolina.
Texans Travel East
Kay Baker of Southwest Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, is an experienced bank travel manager. Why does she take her groups to the Southeast?
“The weather has a lot to do with it,” she said. “It’s better.”
Arkansas drew club members a number of times. “We went to Mount Magazine, a state park [in Paris]. The drive up there from Fort Worth was gorgeous, so different from Texas — wooded, open, beautiful. We stayed one night, but everyone wanted to stay longer. The resort wasn’t elaborate, but the setting was unbelievable,” Baker said.
Members visited the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs. In Bentonville, they stopped at the remarkable Crystal Bridges Museum, established by the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame.
“The children of Mr. Walton decided to build this extensive museum,” Baker said. “The artwork is unbelievable. It’s in a beautiful setting with nature trails around a body of water. There are buildings connected by bridges. There’s free admission. There’s also a nice dining area.”
Another memorable coastal trip was to Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“We toured the largest naval base in the world. That was overwhelming. Some of the ships were three and a half football fields long or more,” Baker said.
Although she’s a Texan, Baker feels a connection to the Southeast.
“We consider ourselves part of the South, but not the Old South or Deep South,” said Baker. “Southerners are warm, friendly people who show hospitality. It’s refreshing to go to some of these places.”