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Huntsville Hosts STS Domestic Showcase

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — More than 400 delegates gathered in Huntsville, Alabama, April 16–19, for the Southeast Tourism Society (STS) Domestic Showcase and its new SMPR Forum for sales and marketing professionals. The attendance included 46 media members who participated in a growing travel media marketplace that is held concurrently with the travel marketplace.

This was the second year for Southeast Tourism Society’s management of the industry meeting after assuming ownership of the event from Travel South USA. STS President and CEO Monica Smith liked the additions to the program this year and is looking forward to continued refinements in 2024.

“Education is a hallmark of ours, and we learned this year that people appreciate our emphasis on that at showcase,” said Smith. “We had two educational breakfasts this week and both speakers were outstanding. Ariel Azoff with Atlas Obscura was fascinating, and Brian Jewell with The Group Travel Leader identified issues facing our industry that all of us must confront. Those breakfast presentations were among the highlights of Domestic Showcase.

“This event was postponed for several years due to COVID, and we can’t thank Huntsville and the state of Alabama enough for the partnership we were able to forge that enabled us to create a great meeting for our delegates,” she added.

More than 70 sales and marketing staff members from DMO organizations arrived early for the SMPR Forum that was introduced this year to offer career development opportunities. Media members spent an entire day seeing highlights of Huntsville, including Burritt on the Mountain, a historic mansion and park that sits high above the city; the Twickenham district of Huntsville, which features more than 60 antebellum residences; Lowe Mill, the city’s restored marketplace where dozens of artisans and musicians maintain shops; and the Orion Amphitheater, Huntsville’s new outdoor performance center.

Huntsville’s opening event at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center was a cosmic success as delegates dined from sumptuous taco stations beneath the complex’s centerpiece, its Saturn V rocket, and jammed to three different soundtracks played on high fidelity headphones. The city’s cool factor as a center for space exploration was undeniable in that setting.

The next evening, more than 120 attendees joined The Group Travel Leader and Small Market Meetings with their co-sponsors, Heaven Hill Distillery and James B. Beam Distilling Co. for Rock the Rocket City, an event in Huntsville’s Stovehouse District. On a beautiful evening, attendees sipped custom cocktails at the indoor/outdoor venue while enjoying the music of the Lamont Landers Band.

The 2024 STS Domestic Showcase will take place in Little Rock, Arkansas, March 20–24. The city will showcase its $170 million renovation of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts and other downtown landmarks.

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.