BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Travel South USA formally handed off its Domestic Showcase conference to the Southeast Tourism Society (STS) during the 39th annual edition of the event, which took place March 8-11 in Baton Rouge.
The transition has been in the works for more than a year and was first announced at last year’s Domestic Showcase.
“The name Domestic Showcase remains, and the STS staff have spent the last year shadowing us,” said Travel South president and CEO Liz Bittner. “For the rank and file attendee, there will be no noticeable change next year.”
For nearly four decades, Domestic Showcase has been one of Travel South USA’s signature initiatives, bringing tour operators and travel journalists from around the country to meet destination and attraction representatives from 12 Southern states. In recent years, however, Travel South has grown significantly in its international outreach. Bittner said that handing the domestic tour operator event over to STS will allow her team to focus their efforts on the growing inbound travel market.
“We can highlight a lot of second- and third-tier cities that people are excited to go to,” she said. “We want to give them places to stop between Texas and Washington, D.C.”
Those promotional efforts will become pivotal as the travel industry deals with the fallout from the coronavirus epidemic. Domestic Showcase took place shortly before widespread travel restrictions and quarantine measures were announced, and during the conference attendees began grappling with the size of the challenge confronting the tourism community.
“We’re in a position to be thinking three moves ahead,” Bittner said. “Our strategy will remain intact. International visitation will come back, and if history is any indication, it will come back with a vengeance. Coronavirus is a short-term hiccup, but that strategy will remain the same.”
STS, which has a long track record of education and advocacy events, will be fully in charge of the next Domestic Showcase, scheduled for February 8-11 in Huntsville, Alabama.
“We are excited to host our first STS Domestic Showcase in Huntsville,” said Monica Smith, president and CEO of STS. “The overall format of Domestic Showcase will remain the same with regards to Marketplace and the scheduled meetings between suppliers, buyers, and journalists. However, we are working to include both educational sessions and additional networking opportunities for all participants. In addition, we’ll be inviting STS members from destinations, attractions, and hotels in both Florida and Washington DC to participate in the event.”