Having a family reunion? Let the tourism bureau help
For many families, traveling to attend a reunion is a summer tradition. Destination marketing organizations across the country – but especially in the South, where family reunions are big business – go to great lengths to attract reunions and ensure their success.
Destinations that excel in catering to the needs of reunions have seen a significant impact on their local economy. In Birmingham, Alabama, for instance, family reunion-related travel accounts for a reported 70,000 hotel room nights each year. Destinations that lead in the family reunion travel segment all share a few common traits: an easily reachable location, an abundance of family-friendly attractions, and family reunion-friendly hotels.
What makes a hotel appealing to family reunions? According to David Bradley, vice president of sales and services for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, a variety of factors can influence reunion planners.
“A family reunion-friendly hotel has to be rate-conscious, affordable, and has to include amenities like free breakfast,” Bradley said. “Often, they’ll also throw in free usage of a welcome reception area or hospitality room, which is a bonus.”
Bradley, along with Tourism Sales Manager Erica Telsee, are working to bring more family reunions to Shreveport-Bossier. The selling points of Shreveport-Bossier as a family reunion destination include affordability, location, family-friendly attractions and activities, and reunion-friendly hotels.
The Convention and Tourism Sales Department of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau provides materials and services to make the reunion planning process go smoothly. A free publication, the Shreveport-Bossier Family Reunion Planning Guide, provides a step-by-step overview of the process. The Tourist Bureau team can also help reunion planners secure the best hotel rate, identify venues for activities, find local vendors for items like t-shirts and professional photography, and plan family outings or group tours.
Telsee says that the mistake most often made by reunion planners is not reaching out to the Tourist Bureau early enough in the planning process.
“Reunion organizers are usually appointed a year in advance, and we encourage them to give us a call as soon as possible,” Telsee said. “Call far enough in advance that you can take full advantage of everything that we have to offer.”
Those offerings include popular “ditty bags” and items like visitor guides, area information, and brochures in addition to event planning assistance, vendor lists, and more.
The Tourist Bureau has also worked with local partners to cultivate group tour experiences designed especially for the family reunion market. One example is the Art and Soul of Shreveport Experience at the Southern University Museum of Art in downtown Shreveport. This hands-on experience for groups of 10 or more includes a tour of the museum’s collection of African art and artifacts, a West African-style drum circle led by a master drummer, and more.
As summer kicks off, Bradley says, many family reunion attendees will soon learn that they’ll be involved in the planning of a future reunion. Once a reunion planner learns that they’ll be responsible for the next reunion, he urges them to contact Erica Telsee at the Tourist Bureau.
Bradley adds that it’s important to remember that, by bringing your family reunion home to Shreveport-Bossier, you are contributing to the local economy in a very real way.
“The money that streams into a host community because of a family reunion helps everyone,” Bradley said. “From the hotelier to the restaurants, attractions, and vendors – the entire community benefits.”
If you or someone you know may be planning a family reunion in the future, please contact Erica Telsee at 800-551-8682 ext. 104 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and let the Tourist Bureau help ease the burden of reunion planning.
Chris Jay is the public relations and social media manager for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. Email Chris at email@example.com.
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