Delegates to the next Select Traveler Conference have an opportunity to check a travel experience off their bucket lists. The conference will be staged in beautiful Cheyenne, Wyoming, March 22-24. Rugged yet lovely, Wyoming is not a state everyone gets to visit, so the host city plans to give travel planners and travel industry representatives some warm hospitality and a memorable taste of the Old West.
“It’s a chance for us to show off the growth in our community and to highlight attractions such as the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration,” said Jim Walter of Visit Cheyenne. “We’re only an hour and a half north of Denver, so we’re accessible for the rest of the country.”
Many of the Select Traveler Conference attendees will fly into town, which means they will touch down at the Cheyenne Regional Airport’s convenient new terminal, which replaced an outdated half-century-old building.
Others who are driving to Cheyenne will likely arrive via Interstate 25 (north and south) or Interstate 80 (east and west). Both form an important regional crossroads for travelers.
The conference features several hundred travel directors for banks, college and university alumni associations and chambers of commerce, along with travel destination providers who want to win their business. They will meet face-to-face in three strategically planned marketplace sessions inside the beautiful Little America Hotel and Resort, located just minutes from downtown Cheyenne.
These six-minute meetings are a chance for the various travel planners to see and hear about dozens of interesting destinations around the nation. These get-to-know-you appointments are a great way for each side to quickly determine if they might want to do some business together. Later, interested parties often continue their conversations during the remaining conference days and nights, especially during the more informal mealtimes and other events. Follow-ups after the conference can clinch the travel deal.
Nadine Mihaljevic of Destinations With Nadine in Mundelein, Illinois, attended last year’s conference in French Lick, Indiana. She’s devoted to Select Traveler.
“Whenever I come, I search for lifetime partnerships with people I can trust and who share my quality customer-service goals,” she said. “I’ve found that year after year at Select Traveler.”
The many travel destination providers found the conference to be very helpful.
“I’m trying to grow my group business and bring everyone to Natchez to show off what we have,” said Valda Harveston of the Magnolia Bluffs Casino and Hotel in Mississippi, who also attended last year’s Select Traveler Conference.
Mealtimes and Events
One of the more pleasant experiences at the Select Traveler Conference is for travel directors and their colleagues to sit down, relax, have a drink and enjoy a tasty meal. The host city always puts on a great show, and Cheyenne will not disappoint anyone.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun and get Western,” said the CVB’s Walter. That means that on the first night of the conference, there will be a fast-paced and lively rodeo staged right alongside the evening’s meal.
The rodeo will include cowboys and cowgirls roping, bull riding and barrel racing inside Cheyenne’s new fairgrounds events center in nearby Archer, Wyoming. Delegates will also get a chance to learn a few rodeo tricks as they try to master some of the skills exhibited by the professionals. Other delegates might take time to learn a little Western line dancing. “It’s a night of Western entertainment, so bring your boots,” said Walter.
Night two of the conference will feature a dinner sponsored by the host city for the 2021 Select Traveler Conference: Panama City Beach, Florida.
Conference sponsors always bring great value to the three-day gathering. Many are promoting travel companies or specific destinations that present travel planners with dozens of ideas and options to consider. Conference attendees can count on seeing some delightful videos promoting travel around the nation and the world. Many sponsors will have their own booths where more detailed conversations may take place.
There will be no formal FAM tours scheduled before or after the Select Traveler Conference. However, Visit Cheyenne urges travel directors to dig into all of the local information it has available and to speak directly to CVB sales staff about the many opportunities for group travel in the Cheyenne area. In addition, travel planners can contact the Wyoming Office of Tourism about FAM tours that it offers.
There’s a lot to see and do in the area. Cheyenne, the capital city of Wyoming, has 60,000 residents, and many rely on the tourist trade that comes to town.
“We have such a deep history here,” said Walter, who directs marketing and sales for the CVB. He went on to explain that in 1867, Cheyenne was barely a speck on a map when the famed Union Pacific Railroad was searching for a place to begin its historic rail ascent over the Rocky Mountains. Cheyenne was the lucky place the railroad chose, and as a result, the little settlement grew up — fast.
Cheyenne enjoys showcasing its heritage for visitors. The city was named for a Great Plains Native American tribe. A good way for newcomers to absorb the historic narratives of the city is to hop on a Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley for a tour. Riders can board the trolleys at the downtown historic depot building, which is a National Historic Landmark. Veteran conductors will hold visitors’ attention with running commentary about Cheyenne’s Wild West days of muddy streets, gunfighters, vigilantes, notorious saloons and brothels, the railroads and peculiar characters like Wild Bill Hickok and Tom Horn.
The trolley tours operate on a loop, so if visitors choose to get off to check out an attraction, the trolley will return to pick them up. Normally, the trolleys run from May through September, but one will be made available for Select Traveler Conference attendees on the Saturday before the official start of the meeting.
Museums and historic sites help tell the story of Cheyenne and Wyoming, and there are several really good ones to check out. The Cheyenne Depot Museum presents the rich history of the early railroads that connected the young nation. A stroll through the museum will keep visitors busy with photos, exhibits, and audio and video displays. Just outside the door is Depot Plaza, a spirited place with concerts and fun events that draw many people.
The Nelson Museum of the West is another historic gem highlighting cowboy, Native American and military artifacts, and beautiful Western art. The Wyoming State Museum features human and natural history from Wyoming’s prehistoric times to the present.
Wyoming’s state capitol, first opened in 1889, has just been fully restored, and it is worth a visit, as is the circa 1904 Governor’s Mansion, only five blocks away.
More Exciting Activities
While enjoying the minirodeo during the conference, delegates will also be able to learn much more about Wyoming’s foremost annual event: Cheyenne Frontier Days. This massive event takes place each year in late July and will celebrate its 124th anniversary this summer.
“We are home to the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and celebration of Western heritage,” said Walter. “It is a big draw.”
The 10-day event includes everything Western, including the rodeo, naturally, and a cattle drive, a chuck wagon, a carnival midway, an old frontier town, a Western art show, Fiesta Day and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial show. There are several fabulous concerts with top country-music talent, such as Blake Shelton, who will headline this year’s rodeo.
Historic ranch tours are a popular group activity because they give guests a sense of what life on the open range must have been like 100 or more years ago. One of the best is Terry Bison Ranch outside of Cheyenne. Narrated train trips are available, and riders will get close to a huge bison herd, hand-feed some of the animals, and also view camels, ostriches and other farm animals.
Cheyenne is justifiably proud of its beautiful botanical gardens. A $13 million addition, known as the Grand Conservatory, was recently completed and contains a lush tropical plant collection, a bonsai house and an orangerie, which holds delicate fruit trees that would never survive Wyoming’s harsh winters.