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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Sponsors Add Value at Select Traveler Conference

Delegates see their booths lining the main hall of the Select Traveler Conference. They watch their travel videos and hear their pitches during mealtimes, between marketplace sessions and during other conference activities. They are the conference sponsors, and they represent a wide cross section of the travel industry. Sponsors offer special value, and fun and enjoyment to the several hundred delegates who attend the annual Select Traveler Conference.

“The sponsors are really important and rank right up there with our host cities in giving a great experience to our delegates,” said Joe Cappuzzello, president and CEO of the Group Travel Family, which manages the Select Traveler Conference.

Some sponsors buy booths, which give them added exposure to delegates, especially during registration time. Sponsors can hand out “auction dollars” to the delegates they talk to, and those dollars can be used to bid on impressive prizes awarded later during the auction. “That encourages our delegates to engage with the travel industry,” Cappuzzello said.

Interaction at booths between group travel directors and travel industry representatives starts the relationship building even before the three marketplace sessions kick off. It is really a time-saver. With personal introductions already out of the way, the two sides can save time later when the six-minute clock starts ticking during their appointment. At that point, the two sides can get right to the heart of their sales discussion and decide whether they want to do business together.

There are different levels of sponsorship available, said Cappuzzello. Some sponsors get to show beautifully crafted videos of their travel products. Others may speak for 20 minutes or more at one of the six meal functions or at an evening event. Or a company may sponsor a keynote speaker, an educational seminar or a loyalty program breakout session.

Sponsors Bring Ideas

Visit French Lick West Baden, Indiana, hosted the 2019 Select Traveler Conference. In 2020, the CVB will sponsor name badges for all delegates and staff at the conference. The CVB is collaborating with other southern Indiana travel partners to promote a campaign called Tour’IN 64. It promotes southern Indiana along Interstate 64 and includes French Lick, Evansville and the Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville. The clever promotional logo will be rolled out to delegates every chance the sponsors can do it.

“We are presenting that to tour operators as a great option as they drive through the state of Indiana,” said Kristal Painter, executive director of Visit French Lick West Baden. “We’ve pieced together a bunch of things to do along the east-west Interstate 64. We see the Select Traveler Conference as a good way to get our message across. At the conference, we think the quality of the operators and the appointments is very high, so we want to present our ideas to those folks.”

Painter also likes using their booth because it affords her a chance to have longer, more casual one-to-one chats with delegates.

“You don’t always get to meet every operator in the marketplace, so the booth is an opportunity for us to connect with people we may not have an appointment with,” she said. “We feel Select Traveler is a place to spend a little extra advertising money for a sponsorship.”

Mayflower Cruises and Tours is one of the many travel companies going all out to provide extra value to the Select Traveler trip planners. The company will host the icebreaker reception and hopes to meet and educate people who stop by its booth.

“We always have a booth and a trip giveaway,” said Michael Lundquist, the company’s director of sales in the eastern U.S. “We also want to get everyone’s business card for a follow-up by our sales team. We also give out cash for the conference auction, and that drives a lot of people to us. We find the booth to be beneficial to us and to the delegates.”

Lundquist enjoys delivering a travel talk so he can update attendees on the fun trips his company provides.

“They give me 10 or 15 minutes to present, and I can mention commission deals or special comps that planners might not be aware of or describe some new products that we have. They can learn a lot.”

Among the videos Lundquist likes to use is one highlighting river cruising, which is excellent for groups. It shows details of the ship, how people can use it, all its open spaces, the dining rooms and so on.

In addition to hosting the 2020 Select Traveler Conference in beautiful and rugged Wyoming, Visit Cheyenne will staff a booth and sponsor the meeting’s travel industry report.

“It is a strategy we have used successfully for about six years now,” said Jim Walter, director of sales and marketing for the CVB. “From our standpoint, it’s about the visibility, the opportunity to reach everybody at the conference and to put Cheyenne right in front of them. We like to be able to show a video, too, and to really make an impact on them.”

With a limited number of marketplace appointment slots open, Visit Cheyenne and other travel industry representatives know they won’t be able to sit down with every travel planner. But they can still reach them during booth time.

“Sometimes we’ll have a conversation with someone we didn’t have an appointment with, and that leads to some new business for us,” Walter said.

The travel industry is built upon personal relationships, and conference organizers believe there is no better way to start the process than with quality networking. When travel planners interact with sponsors, they learn more about the exciting trips and destinations being offered and how they can interest a travel planner’s upscale clients.

“For sponsors, there are a variety of ways to get their messages out there,” said Cappuzzello. “They are all important and valuable.”