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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

SMM Conference registration off to strong start

Courtesy Arkansas Tourism

SALEM, Ohio — Registration for the 2011 Small Market Meetings Conference opened in early March, and within days, 50 percent more delegates had signed up compared to the same period in 2010, the year the conference was launched in Shreveport, La.

This year’s conference, Sept. 26-28, will be in Little Rock, Ark.

To date, attendees are widespread, with California, Illinois, Florida, Arkansas, Texas, New Jersey, Oregon and New York among the states represented.

More than half of the meeting planners and suppliers who registered attended last year’s conference, according to Kim Dolan, conference coordinator.

Those repeat attendees are an indicator of the conference’s quality, said SMM Conference CEO Joe Cappuzzello.

“The fact that so many of the people who have already signed up were at our first conference in Shreveport last year is about the best endorsement we could wish for,” said Cappuzzello. “We know that meeting planners and suppliers don’t waste their time, so obviously, our conference was of value to them or they wouldn’t be coming back this year.”

Among the returning delegates is Gregorio Palomino, a corporate and celebrity event planner from San Antonio, Texas.

He knew little about the possibilities smaller cities offer as meeting destinations before he attended last year’s SMM conference.

“Originally I went to Shreveport to gain knowledge about the smaller markets not usually in my field of knowledge and their scope of services,” said Palomino. “What I left with was a whole other world of possibilities.

“Since then, I have called and asked for bids from the West Coast to the East Coast and even Hawaii — just in the three months following the conference.”

The conference’s format also reinforced Palomino’s professional network. At the SMM conference, suppliers attend all social and business functions with meeting planners.

“I have actually met up with friends I met there and have invited them to other events we’ve done for Sarah Palin and shown them what I was hoping to bring to their markets,” said Palomino.

Palomino said the 2011 conference will give him a chance to explore Little Rock, a city he has never visited.

“I am really looking forward to getting to know the market and see the culture it has to offer. I have no idea what to expect, but I believe it will be high class like Shreveport was.”

Attendees will stay at the Peabody Little Rock Hotel and meet at the attached Statehouse Convention Center. The conference itinerary includes two Marketplace sessions, seminars, hosted meals and city sightseeing tours.

Qualified meeting planners receive complimentary registration, up to $400 in reimbursed travel expenses, two complimentary nights at the Peabody Little Rock, complimentary meals, tours and social events, educational seminars and arranged appointments between meeting planners and qualified destination representatives.

Said Palomino, “For any group offering complimentary lodging and flight, I am more than willing to learn more about what small markets have to offer. They are serious about attracting the first-tier market specialists and showing they can compete with large markets on every level.”

For more information, contact Kim Dolan.