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Super Bowl atmosphere reigns at BankTravel 2011 in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, La. — There were two scores that everyone followed at the BankTravel Conference Feb. 6-8 in Baton Rouge.  The Green Bay Packers bested the Pittsburgh Steelers in a classic Super Bowl 31-25, and nearly 250 travel industry members averaged more than 30 appointments with highly coveted bank travel program directors at this annual industry event. 

More than 7,000 business meetings took place over the three days.

“Our Meet the Banker appointment ratios were really good in Baton Rouge, and from what we hear, a lot of domestic and international travel was discussed and booked over the three days,” said BankTravel CEO Joe Cappuzzello. “The average bank in attendance produces six to eight major overnight trips per year, and some do as many as 24 trips per year. So the amount of travel they represent is enormous.”

The three-day conference kicked off with an evening event that was as impressive as any the conference has ever enjoyed. The Baton Rouge Convention and Visitors Bureau and its partners — the Nottoway Plantation, the Louisiana Office of Tourism and the Louisiana Seafood Commission — partnered on an evening at Nottoway that featured lavish amounts of Louisiana cuisine, tours of the stately Nottoway Plantation home and grounds, live music and a huge Super Bowl viewing tent.

“We loved it,” said Margaret Dean, director of Alliant Bank’s Prestige program in Alexander City, Ala. “The entire evening was so impressive. It all flowed so easily, the food was great — especially the shrimp and crab claws — the plantation was so gorgeous. And then our team won — that made it that much better. Even the bus trip out to Nottoway was fun.”

“This was a singular event,” said conference chairman Charlie Presley. “All of us count our years in the travel industry by looking back on specific events tied to specific years. Anyone who attended that Taste of Louisiana event at Nottoway Plantation on Super Bowl night will remember that as the signature event of 2011.”

Other major event sponsors included next year’s host, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, which brought native son Andy Childs to Baton Rouge to play to a frenzied crowd of dancers following a superb dinner.

“Andy Childs was fantastic,” said Janie Hedglin, director of Providence Bank’s Pals program, one of numerous delegates who went onstage to have fun with the band during the evening. “He was great.

“He just rolled with us and took everything in stride. He’s dreamy to look at — that’s for sure. I told my husband on the way home, ‘Honey, I’ve found a new man.’  I hope they bring him back next year.”

Other major meal sponsors included Nomad Adventures, formerly Flemming Tours, now managed by new owner Susan Damon, who used a football motif to present her new management team; TRIPS, a California-based tour company, which sponsored a breakfast and showcased a new South Dakota trip with lots of partners from that state; Collette Vacations, which hosted an Australia-themed luncheon complete with native didgeridoo musicians; and the Globus Family of Brands, which hosted a German beer garden closing luncheon with authentic Bavarian beer  hall musicians and German beers.

The educational component of the conference was highlighted by the annual Breakout Sessions, where more than 150 banks from 27 states met to discuss operational issues specific to their programs; a social marketing seminar led by Jesse Torres, a Los Angeles-based bank president who has pioneered social marketing programs for his Latino customer base; and a panel discussion related to bringing baby boomers into bank travel programs and that drew on the expertise of three bank travel program volunteers.

“Our thanks to Fran Ringle, Bank Midwest in Kansas City, Mo.; Suzie Glisson of Jacksonville Savings Bank in Jacksonville, Ill.; and Donna Cafferata of Southern Heritage Bank in Alexandria, La., for their preparation and delivery of very useful information on this topic,” said panel moderator and BankTravel partner Mac Lacy.

Next year’s BankTravel Conference will take place Feb. 7-9 in Memphis, Tenn. For registration information, contact Teresa Burton at 330-332-3841 or visit www.banktravel.com.

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