NOV 2017

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 7 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 34 perfect place to reflect on and gain new appre- ciation for the natural wonders of the world," according to the CVB. "Faith is a big part of the people and places that make Gatlinburg, well, Gatlinburg. Visitors often marvel at the friend- liness of the folks who call our gateway to the Smokies home." Expanded Impact of Families Zach Ebarb, sports and convention sales manager for Visit Baton Rouge, said that youth sports events bring a growing number of families to his area each year. "Seventy-five percent of the sporting events we host are youth-based, which is great for our office," he said. "Young athletes will likely bring three to five people with them in the travel party and a larger travel party means a higher economic impact." Sports events are a particularly good fit for cit- ies as games and tournaments are often scheduled on weekends when hotels have lower occupancy, which enables the CBV to offer more price flexi- bility to planners. Together with the variety of family-friendly activities and accessibility from the Interstate, Ebarb said affordability is a big priority for visitors. "We know that many families are traveling on fixed incomes so we try to keep costs as low as possible," he said. "Our hotel rates often fall well below what families pay when they travel to other cities." The Marucci World Series, hosted by home- town baseball bat maker Marucci, was held in Baton Rouge in 2017, and Ebarb hopes the event will return to Louisiana's capital city in 2018. The event drew 1,500 people its first year in Baton Rouge and organizers have added another age group for the upcoming tournament. "We're hoping the event becomes an annual flagship event for our sports market because we have such a great tie-in to where Marucci all started," he said. "Another age group equals more players, more families, more hotel rooms and more economic impact." Pigeon Forge Tourism Director Leon Downey echoed that sentiment. "Sixty percent of our event traffic consists of youth and faith-based programs," Downey said. "We love these events because the kids bring ► MARKET SEGMENT REPORT: YOUTH & FAITH BASED EVENTS Tips For Planners: ► Location Choosing a location that is centrally located and readily accessible by car is an easy way to save money, according to Leon Downey, Pigeon Forge tourism director. "We're easy to reach from any place in the Southeast, mid-Atlantic or Midwest," Downey said. "We're accessible from all directions." ► Off-Season Don't shy away from off-season visits because of weather or other factors, said Larry Noc- colino, executive director of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Md., because hotel rates are very reasonable at those times. "We're at the beach," he said, "but even in the cold months, visitors still like to go to the boardwalk. They still like to visit the ocean even though they can't really go in the water." ► Alternate Activities Have a variety of activities available during your group's free time, said Deborah Cohen, director of meeting and convention sales for the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Branson absolutely offers something for everyone," she said. "Our newest addition is Fritz's Adventure family attraction, an indoor facility that offers rock climbing, zip-lining, ropes courses, suspended bridges and other adventure activities." ► Contact The CVB Work with the local convention and visitors bureau to make planning your event easier, said Christy Lohmann, communication spe- cialist for Visit Baton Rouge. "People don't realize what we offer and that our services are no cost to them," Loh- mann said. "Our office acts as a liaison so organizers don't have to deal with contracts and hotels. We can also help them lock in rates for multiple years to save money for their group." n Wilderness Week In Pigeon Forge, Tenn. ROCK event in Ocean City, Md.

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