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Travel South USA Turns 50

SHREVEPORT, Louisiana — Nearly 600 delegates celebrated the 50th anniversary of Travel South USA at the annual Travel South Showcase in Shreveport, Louisiana, March 22-25. More than 130 travel buyers and journalists joined travel delegations from 12 Southern states for the conference, which included an anniversary luncheon that drew nearly a dozen former state travel directors who had served on the organization’s board.

“In February of 1965, a few forward-thinking and savvy marketers met at the behest of their governors and discussed sharing resources and promoting this new concept of tourism,” chairman Duane Parrish of South Carolina told attendees. “From that historic meeting, we celebrate today the accomplishments of an industry and an organization that have weathered the perpetual rise and fall of our economy, the destructiveness of Mother Nature’s wrath and five decades of ever-changing state politics. That in itself is amazing.”

“Today, the 12-state region we call Travel South USA is America’s oldest and largest regional travel promotion organization,” said incoming chairman Mike Mangeot of Kentucky. “Just last month, the Southern Governors Association adopted a resolution recognizing 50 years of accomplishments by our member states.”

The luncheon was emceed by “Mark Twain,” an actor depicting the iconic storyteller for Southern culture, whose books about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn depicted the South and Mississippi River life in the 19th century.

In addition to several thousand business appointments between destinations and travel planners or journalists, the 2015 conference featured numerous social events, including an opening evening reception and dance at Sam’s Town Casino. Hosted by the Shreveport-Bossier CVB, the Louisiana Office of Tourism and their partners, the event was highlighted by the appearance of Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who also addressed the delegation at the opening breakfast.

After the following evening’s dine-around, 125 or so delegates joined The Group Travel Leader Inc. for its second annual after-hours Pub Crawl, which highlighted the local nightlife in downtown Shreveport.

The next evening, 2016 Showcase hosts Winston-Salem CVB and North Carolina Tourism treated delegates to a Wine Down and Wake Up event and invited them to attend the next installment of the conference, which will take place March 6-9, 2016.

Group travel into the South currently generates almost 22 million hotel room-nights annually, according to research by the ABA Foundation.

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