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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Marketing close to home

We bet you have group members who have walked the Great Wall of China and explored every monument in Washington, D.C., and haven’t been to the museum down the street. That faraway destination seems so exciting, yet we often forget that where we reside is full of treasures that are not only exciting but cost little.

However, we would lose that bet with Adelaide Fletcher, director of Planters Partners at Planters Bank in Indianola, Mississippi. This local cheerleader is a major fan of finding fun in her own back yard, and she recently pulled off a mystery trip when group members gathered in the bank only to discover that their mystery destination was their own hometown.

Indianola, a seemingly common dot on the map at first glance, is anything but common. Like so many unpretentious hometowns, there are must-see jewels, and Fletcher, a lifelong resident, knows them all.

“The star attraction of this daytrip was the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center that just opened in Indianola in 2008,” said Fletcher. “B.B. was born nearby and made his living on a local plantation.

“The museum has been a huge success, attracting tens of thousands of people from around the world, but as you know, sometimes we don’t take advantage of the things in our own back yard.
“While my group members have traveled with me around the country, many had not seen this sensational museum that celebrates one of our own,” said Fletcher.

The day also included lunch and dessert at two different restaurants and a demonstration and tasting with a local food celebrity. Fletcher, who often employs local blues musicians and loves to showcase the tastes of nearby bakeries in her bank travel journey, encouraged the whole community to become involved, with Main Street retailers giving a discount to anyone with a Planters Partners nametag.

“The whole day cost each member $25. It was a grand success,” said Fletcher.

The best may be in plain sight

This is an economic era that encourages bank directors to look locally for travel opportunities. “It’s not just about the times we live in but exploring our back yard that also gives insight into our roots and heritage,” said Mona Herring, vice president of the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Murfreesboro is the site of the Civil War Stones River National Battlefield, where, in 1862, a three-day conflict took the lives of 23,000 soldiers. The battlefield is one of the area’s 10 sites in the Civil War Trails Program.

“We also have two historic homes to tour, and we are home to the Nissan North America, where groups can see Nissan’s most famous models being assembled,” said Herring.

The scenery in Rutherford County is also famous. The vista from the 10-mile Greenway System that borders the Stone River offers fantastic views.

Beloit, Wisconsin, is a group travel favorite, as well. Beloit hosts a museum that boasts the largest collection of angels in the world; a museum that features an astounding collection of famous automobiles, including those from President John Kennedy’s administration; and a farmers market that extends three city blocks.

“What we have to remember is that first and foremost, groups like to have fun. Sometimes we simply forget to investigate what is around us,” said Vicki Stone, group travel representative for Visit Beloit.

Indianola, Murfreesboro and Beloit are prime examples of destinations, perhaps like your communities, that may not have flashing neon welcome signs, thousands of hotel rooms and Broadway entertainment venues on every corner, but isn’t that part of their charm?

A local theme
The Roadrunners Travel Club from Sullivan, Missouri, has already filled the motorcoach for a Flag Day celebration on June 14. “We’re calling it Celebrate America, and we won’t be venturing any farther than 90 minutes from home,” said Peggy Thompson, bank director for the Bank of Sullivan.

This $58 daytrip will include a tour of Tacony Manufacturing in St. James, a facility that makes vacuum cleaners. “Everything in the vacuum cleaners is made in the U.S.A., and the plant also includes a museum with 100 operational sweepers in a time-line exhibit, including one that was retired from use on a George W. Bush presidential plane.

“After the tour, you can even place an order for a custom-made vacuum cleaner,” said Thompson.
The red-white-and-blue theme will continue with lunch at a restaurant in Portuguese Point overlooking the Gasconade River “to enjoy the Missouri scenery.” Finally, the Roadrunners will enjoy a tour of Fort Leonard Wood.

“There are three museums, and we will be privy to a behind-the-scenes tour — it will be so cool,” said Thompson.