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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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ F E B R U A R Y 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 44 MARKET SEGMENT: REUNIONS & SOCIAL GROUPS as numerous free activities. The CVB's focus, he said, is meeting the unique needs of each reunion group that visits the area. "Each group has unique require- ments: family reunions tend to look for outdoor spaces and eco- nomical hotels with space for large gatherings," Meroski said. "Military groups are looking for locations with easy access for members with limited mobility. We will do whatever it takes to maxi- mize the guests' experience." Explore An Area With A Scavenger Hunt Nikki Tyler, marketing and communications director for the Peachtree City Convention & Visitors Bureau in Georgia, said reunion planners would do well to rely on the vast knowledge and ex- perience of CVBs to help organize their events. "The CVB is kind of a know- all," she said. "It's the resource with all the answers, from avail- able spaces to scheduling resources and coordinating hotel rooms with the lowest possible rates to help them stay within their budget. Many CVBs, like ours, offer complimentary gift bags with maps, coupons, in- formational magazines and trinkets to groups that schedule their events with us." To make planning easier, the Peachtree City CVB wrote its own planning guide, complete with timelines, hints and reminders to make plan- ning less intimidating. Additionally, Tyler said, her office puts together a complimentary golf cart scavenger hunt for large groups because it's a fun team-building activity and it's perfect for groups that may not all know one another. "People splurge when they go on vacation a lit- tle more than when they go to a family reunion," she said. "Reunions are more about time spent with family than with blowing your budget on a destination hotel like New York City or Miami." To that end, she said, her office specializes in keeping costs down for reunion groups by planning events at local parks and providing lists of free activities, such as geocaching, that allow groups to explore the area without incurring a lot of cost. "We'll hold their hand the entire way," Tyler said of those planning reunions. "We'll mail out the reunion planner and we'll help them negotiate hotel rates, find off-site meeting spaces and plan fun events, all with their budget in mind." Most reunions span two or three nights and include a meet-and-greet event, a more formal event that may include something like a talent show or performance and a more casual event at an outdoor venue. In the case of reunions, she said, parks are an especially great place to meet because they allow members to mingle in an in- formal setting and get to know one another. "Peachtree City is a regular city with designed cart paths so people can drive golf carts wherever they'd like to go," she said. "It's something a little different, and it's very family friendly and very safe." She also said that the area has a growing film industry that is home to Marvel movies such as "Ant-Man" and "Avengers," as well as TV's "The Walking Dead." As a result, the area is a big draw for groups that are film fanatics. In addition, she said that her office scheduled a special car show for a group of car enthusiasts that held a reunion in the area. "The CVB really is engrained with the city, the police, the city officials and the local business Reunion Considerations Always call the CVB first, said Katherine Johnson of the Natchitoches CVB. "We're the eyes and ears of reunions and groups," she said. "We know everyone in town: the shopping, the venues, the restaurateurs, the activities and attractions, and the points of contact to make your event a success." Schedule free time, said Nikki Tyler of the Peachtree City CVB. "Instead of scheduling every moment, allow time for your group to explore things that are of interest to them in this new city." CVBs do more than just plan your event, said John Meroski of the Fayetteville Area CVB. "We will send visitors' guides when you're considering the area, create hotel proposals to help you find the best match, make itinerary suggestions, provide photos to groups seeking to make souvenir books and promote the event itself with press releases." Consider free activities to keep the cost of your event manageable, Tyler said. "Ask about free activities like geocaching," she said. "You load an app on your phone and seek out caches via GPS to see what you find. The CVBs are so steeped in free activi- ties that even paid planners send their clients to us for lists of activities." n Golf cart scavenger hunts offer a fun way for families to learn about local attractions in Peachtree City, Ga.

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