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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

CVBs full of ideas, itineraries for meeting goers’ family members

Courtesy Durango CVB

Looking for ways to entertain family members who tag along at meetings and conventions? Krista Porter is a fount of ideas.

The convention services manager for the Overland Park, Kan., Convention and Visitors Bureau has a long list of entertaining itineraries, developed over the past two years for the Kansas City suburb and neighboring areas, including Kansas City.

There’s her Chocolate Tour, with stops at five to six Kansas City-area chocolate makers, including a chocolate pizza company. Porter’s Foodie Tour takes in a culinary center, a spice shop, a cider mill and an olive oil merchant. She’s also developed tours highlighting two of the region’s prides: art and agriculture.

“I based it on what I would want to do if I was visiting a city. I like to eat; one of the things I always seek out when I visit a city is where the locals go to eat good food,” said Porter. “I love 
chocolate, so I want to know where I can go to get a specialty item that I can’t get at home.”

No group has yet tackled one of Porter’s tours verbatim; she’s packed in more than can reasonably be done in a day. Her tours are meant to be mixed, matched and modified in whatever way a meeting planner sees fit.

Many CVBs in small to midsize towns assist in planning spouse tours and family outings.

“With meeting planners having a lot to balance, including limited budgets, they are more and more using us as a resource rather than doing their own research,” said Chelsey Morrison, group resources manager with the Durham, N.C., CVB.

In some cases, a meeting planner requests a CVB information table so family members can get advice and directions on things to do and see. In Durham, the CVB sent a local volunteer to talk to a spouse group about the town, answer their questions and give suggestions on what to do in the city.

Convention services staff often serve as advisers as Porter did when a national convention of agriculture agents was held in Overland Park. Four days of activities were planned for children who attended with parents.

“I met several times with the representative from the planning committee just to offer some suggestions,” said Porter.

CVB staff make suggestions based on a group’s needs and interests.“It all depends on the group and what they are looking for,” said Morrison. “We don’t suggest the same thing to every group — it depends on the time of the year, the day of the week, the age and interests of the people in the group.” (See tips on how to help CVBs help you plan on p. 9.)

Along with suggestions, CVBs can supply brochures, maps and apps.

In Durango, Colo., the economic downturn has meant that more meeting attendees are bringing family members along. With its emphasis on the outdoors and with attractions like the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train, Durango can keep tagalongs entertained.

In the summer, camps can keep children occupied while their parents are in meetings. Camp programs range from arts and crafts to science and soccer.

“The summer camps are becoming popular because the parent doesn’t have to accompany the child, so it is a breather for the parents as well,” said Sarah McLean, who heads group sales for the CVB.

The bureau supplies “detailed information about what the children are going to be doing at the camp, then we let the parents contact them. We kind of act as a guide,” McLean said.

Like other cities Durango also emphasizes local specialties in some of its itineraries. For example, the CVB helped arrange an agriculture tour to James Ranch, a working farm operation 10 minutes from town in the Animas River Valley, for a group of spouses who accompanied a ministerial group meeting in Durango.

The group toured the ranch and ate a lunch of local foods at its restaurant. The CVB provided planning assistance and transportation.