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Winston-Salem Hosts Travel South Showcase

Winston-Salem, North Carolina — For all the direct benefits that accrue to a city when hosting a major travel industry event like the recent Travel South Showcase in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Liz Bittner cited the indirect benefits in an interview at the close of this annual domestic-travel gathering.

“Winston-Salem did something very smart,” the Travel South USA president and CEO said. “They incorporated the spirit of the city and brought many people in here to participate in Arts and Innovation Avenue who don’t necessarily recognize every day the importance of tourism to their city. They brought potters, interpreters, artisans, restaurateurs, craft brewers, sign-makers and more into the event so they could see where they fit in and see how this industry helps to build their businesses. More cities should do that.”

The event took place March 6-9 and drew 590 delegates, including 135 tour operators, to Winston-Salem. Extensive sightseeing tours for both media and group travel professionals bookended both dates.

Travel industry representatives are organized in groups by state at this event, and most offered a signature drink or snack to create a festive atmosphere for the four marketplace sessions that took place over two days. A growing travel media contingent participated as well. Thirty media guests representing national consumer and trade magazines, photography services and blogging sites joined the tour operators in attendance for events and marketplace appointments.

“This is the best show I do all year long,” said Louisiana receptive operator Danny Bonaventure of Allons A Lafayette, Inc. “I get more business here than anywhere else. I wouldn’t miss Travel South Showcase.”

Winston-Salem and the North Carolina tourism office hosted delegates at the city’s Millennium Center for an opening gala event that featured live music and culinary offerings from a dozen or so of the city’s best restaurants. Breakfasts and luncheons were hosted by Louisiana, North Carolina, the National Park Service and Myrtle Beach. The closing dinner was presented by next year’s hosts: Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau and Missouri Division of Tourism.

“Missouri has become such a wonderful addition to Travel South USA,” said Bittner. “They joined just two years ago, and they’re already hosting Showcase in 2017. We’re excited about showcasing Branson, Missouri, and the entire Ozarks region next March 12-15.”

Following many years as sponsor of the event’s golf and bowling events, The Group Travel Leader Inc. sponsored its third consecutive Pub Crawl for more than 100 delegates who signed up to participate. This year, Jim Beam Country and Evan Williams Bourbon Experience participated as co-sponsors, adding a distinctive bourbon flavor to the craft beer event.