BILOXI, Mississippi — In late March, 693 tourism professionals convened in Biloxi, Mississippi, for the 2018 Travel South Showcase, marking a 10 percent increase in delegate attendance over last year.
It has been 10 years since the conference came to Biloxi, a time when the Mississippi Gulf Coast was still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The 2018 conference also saw a 30 percent rise in attending tour operators, who met with representatives from 485 Southern tourist organizations during the three-day event.
“I think the South just resonates well with tour operators, whether you’re doing senior groups or millennials,” said Liz Bittner, president and CEO of Travel South USA. “We’re authentic, we have great food, we’re hospitable, and there’s so much to see and do.”
Delegates were housed in the AAA Four Diamond Beau Rivage Resort and Casino and attended scheduled appointments at the Mississippi Coast Convention Center. Several special events were held at the Hard Rock Casino and Resort, including the lavish opening reception and The Group Travel Leader’s second annual Lip Sync Battle, during which attendees took to the stage to lip sync some of their favorite songs. In addition, many delegates took advantage of organized city tours, culinary tours, boating excursions and more.
“I’m really happy about the outcome, but more importantly, the folks at Visit Mississippi and Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast are very pleased with the attendance and level of engagement,” said Bittner, adding that the showcase generated more than $750,000 in revenue for the destination.
Celebrating its 36th year in 2018, Travel South Showcase is one of the most distinguished marketplace events in the travel industry; the event provides a unique opportunity for delegates to cultivate new business partnerships and stimulate tourism in one of the country’s most colorful regions.
“Everything we do is to promote, foster and encourage travel to the South,” Bittner said. “It’s all about the connectivity.”
Thirty-eight travel journalists joined the buyers and sellers at the marketplace, representing a 10 percent increase in media attendance. Over the course of their visits, journalists participated in three different familiarization tours across Tennessee and Mississippi, learned more about the newly launched U.S. Civil Rights Trail at an exclusive reception and sampled rich coastal flavors along the Gulf Coast during postappointment tours.
“We could easily expand on the media aspect, and we are looking at that for Myrtle Beach,” said Bittner.
The 2019 Travel South Showcase will take place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and will feature a special guest performance from Grammy Award-winning artist Darius Rucker at the opening reception. Registration typically opens during the summer and closes by mid-December.