Photos courtesy Shreveport-Bossier CVB
For several days in mid-April, pink and green burst forth in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., a profusion of color unrelated to spring’s arrival. From street banners to the front desk at the Shreveport Hilton to a special cocktail, the “whole town was painted pink and green,” said Dianna Douglas, regional convention sales manager for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau (CTB). It was the destination’s way of welcoming 2,000-plus members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, in town for a regional convention.
Customer service with plenty of personalization is a trait of northwestern Louisiana’s twin cities, which are separated by the Red River but operate as one entity.
Meetings don’t have to be as large as Alpha Kappa Alpha’s to garner the destination’s attention.
“If a group of 10 wants to have a drink named for them, one of our partners will step up to the plate,” said Douglas. (Alpha Kappa Alpha’s signature drink was called the Gwentini, in honor of South Central Region director Gwendolyn J. Brinkley.
SMM conferees can expect personal attention
Attendees at the Small Market Meetings Conference in Shreveport Oct. 3-5 will likely have an experience much like Alpha Kappa Alpha’s.
Already, the Shreveport-Bossier CTB is mapping out a wide range of special experiences for meeting planners and industry attendees, among them an evening at the heralded Red River Revel, a weeklong arts, food and music festival; and post-conference tours.
Like the members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Greek-letter sorority established by African-American college women, Small Market Meetings conference attendees will experience a different Shreveport than they would have found four years ago, before the opening of the Shreveport Convention Center and adjoining the Hilton Shreveport.
That development, said Kim Brice, vice president of convention marketing, turned the city from a destination that struggled to market a patchwork of meeting spaces to a one with a viable product to market.
Most can meet under one roof
Before the convention center opened, Shreveport’s meeting venues included an expo hall that was down the street from a convention hall and a theater.
“Prior to the convention center, we had to be extremely creative,” said Brice.
Now, many of the groups that meet in Shreveport do so under one roof, staying in the 313-room Hilton and meeting in the convention center.
Larger groups can have all their meetings in the convention center, and use other city hotels, including those at area casinos, for overflow. The CTB often offers packages that include transportation between the properties.
Design is a selling point
The convention center, with 350,000 square feet of meeting space in a straightforward two-story layout, has become a major selling point.
The first floor is dominated by a 95,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall served by 11 loading docks. Upstairs, ten 1,600-square-foot meeting rooms, split in two rows, sit adjacent to the 18,000-square-foot ballroom.
“Logistically, the convention center is very sound,”said Douglas. “For example, in terms of getting from one floor to the next, there is easy access to escalators,” said Douglas.
One feature women’s groups immediately notice is the wealth of restrooms. Designers went beyond the required number of facilities, according to Brice.
“That was one of the things they studied in terms of flow of events,” she said. “They realized that when you are between breakouts, there is only a certain amount of time and you need to be able to get in and out of the restroom.”
An evening of arts, food and music
Of course, Douglas and Brice are also interested in getting conference attendees out of the convention center and into the city. There’s a lot to explore.
“One of the reasons we chose the dates that we did is so we could expose visiting delegates to the culture of the Shreveport-Bossier area and to Louisiana,” said Brice. “What better way to do that than to expose them to one of our largest and best-attended festivals, the Red River Revel.”
The festival is a mashup of regional food; local, national and international artists; and live music of many genres. It is held in the festival plaza downtown, which begins at the river and runs perpendicular to it for three blocks.
The weather is not an issue because the event is under tents “The show will go on,” said Brice.