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Buyer Growth Fuels Attendance Jump at Select Traveler Conference

More than 450 delegates from 40 states and five countries gathered for the 20th Select Traveler Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, February 8-10. The high-end gathering for group travel planners and sellers began in 1996 as the BankTravel Conference, and was rebranded in 2014 when chambers of commerce and alumni organizations were added to the travel planner delegation.

“Our rebranding has been accomplished, and our expansion into key new markets for our attendees is well underway,” said Select Traveler Conference chairman Charlie Presley. “The group travel industry, including dozens of tour operator attendees and hundreds of destinations, have embraced our new chamber and alumni travel directors, and this annual gathering has become a must-attend event for top-tier buyers and sellers.”

“The momentum is clearly building for this select group of travel planners and the travel industry is embracing it,” said conference partner Mac Lacy, who publishes Select Traveler magazine. “If one aspect of our conference validates these planners’ influence, it’s that tour operators represent one-fourth of our industry delegation and nearly half of all our sponsors. These tour companies know that bank, chamber and alumni planners represent leading-edge groups for domestic and international travel in the years ahead.”

More than 7,000 six-minute appointments were held over the three days and the conference was highlighted by the fact that 40 percent of delegates were new to the event.

“We had dozens of new attendees on both sides of the aisles,” said conference CEO Joe Cappuzzello. “We had new tour operators from China and South Africa, and we had three dozen chamber and alumni travel planners meet for their own breakout sessions this year. These two new buyer groups are coming into their own as travel influencers at the Select Traveler Conference.”

The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation and the Renaissance Hotel were the anchor destination hosts for the event. They brought one of the city’s hottest entertainment acts, The Farm, to the opening evening event. The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted the second evening, a raucous dueling piano dinner that served to invite delegates to attend next year’s event in that city.

Other meal sponsors at the conference included two breakfast sponsors, East Coast Touring Company and TRIPS; and two luncheon sponsors, Collette and Globus Family of Brands. With the support of those sponsors and the 2015 and 2016 host cities, the Select Traveler Conference continued a 20-year-old tradition of hosting all delegates for every meal on the schedule.

In addition to the buyer breakout sessions that give banks, chambers and alumni travel planners an afternoon to meet among themselves, delegates were offered two educational seminars led by Kim Hodous, who spoke on melding career, happiness and success, and Shawna Suckow, who addressed the keys of goal-setting for travel professionals.

The 2016 Select Traveler Conference takes place February 7-9 in Little Rock, Arkansas. To register, visit

Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.