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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Relish Unexpected Buffalo

There’s no better place for collaboration between group travel planners and destination providers than the Select Traveler Conference. This year, the annual conference will take place on March 17–19 in Buffalo, New York, at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Conference Center.

This conference was designed to provide bank, chamber of commerce and alumni group travel planners the opportunity to network and find solutions with DMOs, hotels and other suppliers. With marketplace sessions, educational presentations, sponsored meals and social activities, delegates from around the country will have more than enough time to make business connections and trade ideas. It’s also a great way for planners and providers alike to gauge trends in the travel and tourism industry.

Select Traveler Conferences are also famous for being fun. This year’s host city, Buffalo, has plenty of surprises in store for conference attendees. Sightseeing tours of the city will allow the delegates to explore it as a destination and experience all it has to offer.

An Unexpected Buffalo Welcome

There are a lot of common misconceptions about Buffalo, which means many first-time visitors to the city are surprised by what it has to offer.

“A lot of people don’t know Buffalo,” said Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara. “We hear from our visitors, tour operators and event planners that when they come here, they learn that there are so many unexpected things they didn’t know.”

In fact, the city so frequently surprises and delights with its long list of attractions that its major ad campaign features the Unexpected Buffalo, an anthropomorphic bison performing surprising feats in the city.

Buffalo is New York’s second-largest city, and while people often mistake it for a suburb of New York City, it’s actually on the far end of the state and borders Lake Erie. This Rust Belt city has experienced a renaissance of culture, repurposing industrial districts to become lively hubs of entertainment and leisure.

Visitors are often impressed by its vibrant arts and culture scene. It’s home to one of the top 20 contemporary art collections in the world, as well as buildings designed by some of the most well-known, iconic American architects, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Louis Sullivan.

Its food scene is equally noteworthy. The city is the birthplace of Buffalo chicken wings (which the city’s residents simply call “wings”), and there are a ton of places to enjoy them, including stops along the Buffalo Wing Trail. Other foods featured on iconic city food trails include beef on weck sandwiches, hot dogs, Buffalo-style pizza and sponge candy.

Another bonus attraction of Buffalo? The city’s access to water, including the beautiful Niagara Falls, the most powerful waterfall in the country. It’s a water city through and through, with activities along Canalside, the Buffalo River, the Erie Basin Marina and the Outer Harbor.

“I’m so pleased we have this opportunity to host this group, that they get to experience Buffalo firsthand,” Kaler said. “We’re really looking forward to providing them with an unexpected Buffalo experience.”

Conference Details

The host hotel for the 2024 Select Traveler Conference is the 396-room Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Conference Center. The downtown hotel is conveniently located right next to a free light rail system that will take attendees directly to the waterfront, where they’ll find a restored carousel, a naval park and other attractions.

The hotel is “right in the heart of our entertainment district with great restaurants and nightlife,” Kaler said.

When they first arrive on Sunday, March 17, delegates will meet for roundtable discussions to generate solutions to common industry problems. That evening, they’ll be welcomed to Buffalo with plenty of fun, food and entertainment. Conference attendees will feel especially lucky to arrive in the city on St. Patrick’s Day.

“St. Patrick’s Day is almost like a holy day in Buffalo,” Kaler said. “We have one of the top five St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country.”

These festivities include two parades, the larger of which will be happening the night of Sunday, March 17, the first night of the conference. To add onto the parade fun, the evening’s opening event will be St. Patrick’s Day themed and will feature “dinner, Irish music, Irish dancers and a very neat, unique venue downtown,” according to Kaler.

The next day will begin with a sponsored breakfast, followed by educational seminars and the first of two marketplace sessions. These sessions are only six minutes, but they allow planners the chance to talk business and build relationships with as many delegates as possible. Then, attendees will enjoy a sponsored lunch before departing for their four sightseeing tours around Buffalo.

The party doesn’t stop with St. Patrick’s Day; the final evening will end with a trip to the Buffalo Creek Casino, where the group will enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres. Then, they’ll go on a dine around in downtown Buffalo to enjoy its spectacular food scene.

The last day of the conference will feature another sponsored breakfast, as well as destination spotlights and a second marketplace session. Then, attendees will enjoy a closing social before departing for home.

During the conference, industry experts from businesses and organizations such as US Tours, NYS Destination Marketing, Mayflower, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Collette, Explore Branson, Central Holidays and Group Collect will conduct presentations.

Sightseeing Tours

On the afternoon of Monday, March 18, group travel planners will enjoy four sightseeing tours around Buffalo.

The first tour will showcase the city’s impressive collection of contemporary art, as well as its most prominent architecture. It will begin with the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, home to one of the top 20 contemporary art collections in the world. The museum’s vast collection contains works from many major art movements, such as Impressionism, cubism, surrealism and abstract expressionism.

“They just did a $200 million expansion so more can be put on display, as well as other touring exhibits,” Kaler said.

Then, the group will tour the Darwin Martin House, where they’ll enjoy champagne and light snacks in the largest and most complete restoration of a Frank Lloyd Wright site in the world.

The second sightseeing tour will occur at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum. In addition to telling the story of the famed locally produced cars, the museum also explores Buffalo’s legacy in the automotive industry. After touring the museum, the group will enjoy a tasting at Hofbrauhaus Buffalo, a German microbrewery, restaurant and beer garden just a couple blocks away.

The third tour, a trip to the massive Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica will provide another shining example of Buffalo’s breathtaking architecture.

“It has a lot of significance to our community,” Kaler said. “Father Baker, who was the leader of building the basilica, is hopefully going to be canonized at some point.”

After touring the church, the group will go to the Buffalo Botanical Gardens for champagne and light snacks.

The final tour will take place at Niagara Falls, where they’ll get to see the falls and other natural wonders like the Cave of the Winds, which sits behind Bridal Veil Falls. Attendees will enjoy hot cocoa, chocolates and treats for a sweet finish to an exciting afternoon.

“You can’t go to Buffalo without going to Niagara Falls, because it’s only 20 minutes away,” Kaler said.

To register for the Select Traveler Conference, go to