Monica Smith’s extensive background in meetings sales and management is apparent when she cites her principles for selling a destination. With management stops at Visit Jacksonville, Visit Pasadena and Visit Newport Beach, the president and CEO of Southeast Tourism Society (STS) brings solid credentials to her role in promoting Southern states as meeting destinations.
“My mantra for selling destinations was always the four A’s,” she said. “Planners need to know about a city’s accessibility, its availability of hotel and meeting space, its affordability and its amenities. Those are questions a planner will ask before placing a meeting or convention with anyone. And now, I have a role in answering those questions for the entire Southeast.”
Smith knows she and her members have one of America’s best regions to sell.
“Meeting delegates are still visitors,” she said. “When they come to our region, they expect Southern hospitality, good weather and great air service. Our culture, arts and entertainment options all come into play. Selling the South and its charm is a major calling card that all our destinations can use.”
As the chief executive of STS, Smith now works both sides of the meetings market, since she and her staff manage numerous events themselves. Over the course of a calendar year, they’ll handle site selection, marketing and management of events like STS Domestic Showcase, STS Marketing College, the STS Group Sales Symposium, STS Congressional Summit and their new SMPR Forum, which provides two days of educational programming prior to Domestic Showcase.
“At SMPR Forum, we’re training marketing, sales and public relations professionals about the principles of the group, meetings and sports segments of the industry,” she said.
Smith and her associates are prioritizing two strategies in planning the meetings they manage currently.
“We’re planning our events further in advance,” she said. “There are so many travel industry events now that we’re trying to avoid conflicts by getting our dates out there earlier. We’re also approaching all our meetings as partnerships with our destinations. We’re emphasizing what our destinations bring to the delegate experience and working hard to showcase our host cities.”
In 2023, all STS events take on an additional luster due to the organization’s 40th anniversary celebration.
“There is a strong legacy to consider when you look at 40 years of service to the industry,” said Smith. “Our members have a sense of pride in hosting their peers in the travel industry in 2023 during this special year. Our anniversary will be front and center at all these gatherings and our members are proud of what the Southeast Tourism Society has meant to them personally and professionally. At the end of the day, everyone looks at this like entertaining your friends in your home and works hard to put their best foot forward.”