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Little Rock Readies for SMMC 2015

Little Rock, Arkansas, is hosting the sixth annual Small Market Meetings Conference September 27-29. Sound familiar? Little Rock hosted the conference in 2011 and so enjoyed having 200 meeting planner and travel industry delegates in town for three days that the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau booked the event again.

But Little Rock officials believe that returning attendees will discover remarkable changes in the city in the four years since the last Small Market Meetings Conference.

“We’re anxious to bring those meeting planners back,” said Alan Sims, vice president of sales and services for the CVB. “We have a lot to show and talk about with them.”

Hotel Renaissance

The Statehouse Convention Center is again the conference site, but the official conference hotel attached to it has changed dramatically. The Peabody, an aging boutique hotel, has been replaced by the Little Rock Marriott, which now has a more modern feel following its $18 million makeover.

Another nearby major downtown hotel will see a renaissance: DoubleTree by Hilton will undergo a $6 million renovation timed to coincide with the overhaul of the historic Robinson Center, a top performance hall that will be connected to the DoubleTree when work is completed.

Just down the block, the century-old Boyle Building is being converted into a 140-room Aloft Hotel. In the same neighborhood is the venerable Capital Hotel, a 140-year-old lodging full of modern semisuites and suites, and a fine restaurant and bar.

River Market District

Little Rock’s compact downtown features the popular and emerging River Market District, which is full of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and cultural experiences. The district will one day be home to Tech Park, a complex of new and renovated buildings filled with start-up and mature technology companies. “It will be an incubator for high-tech companies to help them start up and get going,” said Sims.

More Options

Little Rock is home to a presidential library: The William J. Clinton Center houses the White House records and memorabilia of the two-term president and Arkansas-native. It’s a good place for a meeting or an event, and touring the building provides a glimpse of the last eight years of the 20th century.

Next door is Heifer International, a remarkable worldwide charity that helps people donate money for the purchase of farm animals for poor individuals, families and villages in Third World countries.

“When attendees get here, we’ll have a lot to showcase,” Sims said.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.