NOV 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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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 8 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 30 and faith-based meeting planners, often offering special incentives, while saving planners time and money. "CVBs want you to come to their city, so they are going to use every opportunity to convince you to visit," Matos said. "While a single hotel has incentive to convince you to stay on its prop- erty, the CVB has information about all of the available properties and it can help you fine-tune your event so that it exactly matches what you envisioned for your meeting." Family-Friendly Atmosphere Pigeon Forge has earned a reputation as an ideal destination for youth and faith-based meetings, with many groups in this market segment return- ing to the eastern Tennessee city again and again. Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, said that because of its family-friendly atmosphere and its accessibility for so much of the population, about 60 percent of the groups that visit Pigeon Forge every year are youth and faith-based groups. "We're perfect for youth and faith-based events and youth and faith-based events are perfect for us," Downey said. Aside from its location (within a day's drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population east of the Mis- sissippi River) and its affordability, Pigeon Forge boasts a multi-use meeting and event facility that seats about 12,000, which makes it ideal for large youth or faith-based groups. Understandably, Downey said that most youth pastors prefer not to have 12,000 young people in a single room at a single time, so the Pigeon Forge CVB helps groups structure their events into two groups, Alpha and Omega, so that stu- dents trade places through the day, making crowd control more manageable. The CVB is also able to help the groups work attractions into their schedules between the meeting times. He called the CVB a liaison for the youth and faith-based groups that visit the destination. The planners determine what kind of time window they have and the CVB helps them fill it with the activities they'd most like to do. "They tell us what they need and we put them in contact with the people they need to reach in order to make it happen," he said. The city has a new indoor snow tubing venue that allows visitors to tube on real snow year round. Pigeon Forge Snow is popular among visitors of all ages and it's one of more than 900 tourism-related businesses in the area. Pigeon Forge's affordability, flexibility and variety of attractions offer the most likely expla- nations for why so many youth and faith-based groups sign multi-year contracts. "As the planners and the CVB staff get to know each other, it's easier to anticipate needs and address each group's unique purpose," Downey said. "Return groups build relationships with our CVB staff so that when they come back each year, it's like old home week. We become like family." n YOUTH & FAITH-BASED MEETINGS

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