FEB 2018

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 45 owners, so we can do special things to give peo- ple unique experiences," Tyler said. "We can help them coordinate things they couldn't do if they planned it without us." Take Advantage Of Local Festivals Katherine Johnson of the Natchitoches Conven- tion & Visitors Bureau in Louisiana echoes the importance of the CVB in planning an important event like a reunion. "Cost is very important for reunion groups," she said. "They want to make it a great experience and put their money toward fun activities and events. They often want to pair their event with any spe- cial activities like local festivals so their group can catch up together but also have an opportunity to explore the area they've chosen to visit." Natchitoches, pronounced NACK-a-tish, is the oldest city in Louisiana. Because it's a smaller city, the cost to visit is often lower than other locations but there are still plenty of activities available for reunion-goers. "We're such a small city with a huge history," Johnson said. "We have the ability to have great events in a safe and charming place, and still offer the venues that your family can enjoy. We can create exciting activities for family reunions." She said that most reunions are held during the summer months because school schedules and vacation opportunities allow higher participation in the event. Although summer is a peak travel season, the CVB is able to help groups explore a range of lodging options, from hotels to historic homes, in order to find the location that satisfies their requirements while staying within their budget. She said they build a lot of group itineraries during the summer, which includes activities such as making moccasins, making candles, shopping and cooking, as well as scavenger hunts through the historic district and tours through the planta- tion system. Johnson said her office deals mostly with family reunions but also coordinates alumni re- unions as well. One group had a family member in consideration for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, so the CVB helped the group put together a sports-themed reunion. "Natchitoches is a surprise," she said. "But I think once reunions are held here, people are wowed by the experience, by the charm, by the unexpected fun and by the ease of being here. It's a surprisingly enjoyable space that you will remember. They want to come back and they do come back, year after year." Most groups choose a location that is easily ac- cessible by car or plane, though the location often boils down to finding a place where at least one member of the reunion lives, Meroski said. That way, there is one person on the ground who can do the legwork. "If you're new to this and no one in the family wants to carry the torch of planning a reunion, call the CVB," he said. "That's what we're here for: the how-to. The checklists of how to do things so it isn't so overwhelming to plan your event. Nothing is more important than staying in touch with family, friends and relatives." CVB services include marketing and advertis- ing in addition to coordinating events. "We will do what it takes for the group," Mer- oski said. "The customer gets a team effort at the CVB. We all have individual talents that we will bring together to help the group plan their event." All three agreed that the CVB is the best-kept secret for people planning reunions of any kind. "New or inexperienced planners don't realize that there are many complimentary items they can request," Meroski said. "A hosted reception, a complimentary sleeping room for every so-many paid rooms, complimentary items and compli- mentary meeting space. Our organization will do three-quarters of the work for you." n MARKET SEGMENT: REUNIONS & SOCIAL GROUPS Attention All Reunion Planners! We want to hear your stories. Will you be using your creative skills to plan an event during 2018? Are you facing challenges that require new strategies for the meetings you arrange? Do you expect to use a new form of technology or increase the use of tech- nology in the coming year? ConventionSouth is seeking examples of interesting and unique reunion events during 2018. Those who submit informa- tion throughout the year (prior to Nov. 1, 2018) will be considered for a new award category: Event Super Stars. In our annual awards issue (published in December 2018), we will identify up to five planners in various categories, including association, reunion, medical, corporate, government and university, youth, faith-based and sports-related. If you would like to be considered, please send information about your- self and your event to editor@ Parades through the downtown area are popular with military reunion groups who gather in Fayetteville, Ark.

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