Savannah set to step out in style

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ctivity-based programs and hands-on tours are some of the highlights delegates should expect to see at the 2003 Travel South USA show, which will be held in Savannah, Ga., from Feb. 15 to 19.

Suppliers are focusing on these types of itineraries and will be bringing them to the marketplace floor, according to Liz Doyle, director of the Travel South USA marketplace.

Participatory touring is the buzz right now, Doyle said. "It's no longer just get off the coach, see something and get back on again."

Instead, she said, delegates will see more hands-on and learning-based tourism, such as programs that focus on square dancing or making pottery and jewelry.

"Seniors now are interested in more active tourism," she said. "I think we're going to see a lot more tour product that includes activity."

Doyle pointed out a West Virginia white-water rafting company that adapted its programs for motorcoach tours.

"I think we'll hear about a lot of these types of itinerary changes on the marketplace floor this year," she said.

Savannah southern style and heritage will greet delegates at the 2003 Travel South USA trade show. Another change facing Travel South delegates, Doyle said, is that "people aren't necessarily traveling as far as they did before. Our target market is not out West, and we're still not back to where we once were with Canada."

Right now, the strongest markets, Doyle said, are the Northeast, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.

"This forces operators to be more creative with the product and the variety of tours offered," she said. "And because people aren't traveling as far, I think we need to find a way to put a fresh look on the destinations -- give people a reason to return."

That means being very creative on price and value, she said.

Meanwhile, after a down year in 2002, Doyle said the show's registration three months out is higher than it's ever been.

The show also gives Savannah the opportunity to show off its Southern charm.

"The South is all about its cultural history, and what better place to highlight that than Savannah?" Doyle said.

"We're in one of the South's most historic cities, but it's not just about the history. We're also here to discover what's new about the old."

What's new is the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, which opened last summer across the Savannah River from historic Savannah on Hutchinson Island.

The facility, Doyle said, was one of the selling points for Savannah to host its first Travel South marketplace.

"It's a spectacular facility," Doyle said. "It has a large patio out front offering incredible views back across the river to historic Savannah."

Historic Savannah also will be the focus of many of the 15 city tours that will be offered to delegates as a way to show off the city.

Other tours include: the Low Country Tour, the African-American Tour, the Music Tour, the Civil War Walking Tour and the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Tour.

Georgia also is hosting four preshow familiarization tours throughout the state.

Blazing a multicultural trail across the region

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- The South is rich in cultural and historical sites. The following is a state-by-state roundup of some developments:

Arkansas

Among Arkansas' many historical and multicultural attractions are Hot Springs' bath houses and its Native American sites, such as the archaeological park devoted to the Parkin tribe, which lived in what is now the town of Parkin.

Other sites include Little Rock's war museums, Fort Smith's Wild West-era buildings and Eureka Springs' turn-of-the-century antique shops.

More information is available at www.arkansas.com. The site contains the Arkansas History and Heritage Trail Guide, which can be used for planning by groups or individuals.

Florida

Tour St. Augustine offers historical itineraries complete with guides in period dress circa 1565. The tour operator also traces the area's African-American history, including "safe houses" where Martin Luther King Jr. stayed during a visit in 1964. For information, call (904) 825-0087.

Meanwhile, Tampa-based Customized Historic Tours focuses on Ybor City, where Cubans and African-Americans settled in the 1880s. For details, call (813) 286-1636.

Georgia

Among Georgia's newest heritage attractions is Springfield Village in Augusta, a year-old, multimillion-dollar, commemorative park that features Springfield Baptist Church, the oldest active African-American congregation in North America.

The state also boasts one of the more popular African-American heritage attractions, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta.

The Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism will customize heritage fam trips for agents. For details, call (770) 322-9225.

Kentucky

Set to open in the spring, the African-American Heritage Center in Louisville will celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to the history and cultural life of the state through a historical research center and exhibits of works by local artists.

Meanwhile, the Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville chronicles the road to freedom for many slaves, who were often assisted by freed slaves in the north who had the support of white abolitionists.

North Carolina

Charlotte is the newest destination for Traveling America, which offers two- and three-night Break Away packages to more than 80 destinations in 33 states.

The company, whose drive-travel products are based on clients driving their own cars -- and which pays 13% commission -- launched a series of 24 Charlotte packages.

Each plan features a different theme, ranging from golf and car-racing tours to gardens and African-American heritage programs.

South Carolina

Charleston plans to begin $13.6 million in improvements next year to the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, where colonists established the first permanent settlement in the Carolinas in 1670.

In addition, the city broke ground on the Camden Towers Cultural Center. Slated for completion in 2004, the project includes the Phillip Simmons Museum, which will chronicle the influence of African-Americans on Charleston's history, and the South Carolina Heritage Corridor Discovery Center.

Tennessee

Memphis spotlights the rich musical heritage of African-Americans as well as their civil rights history.

Most recently, the 11-year-old National Civil Rights Museum, which is housed in the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, completed a $10 million expansion, renovating the building where James Earl Ray fired the shot.

In addition, slated to open this spring, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music will celebrate the former Stax recording studio, where, from 1960 to 1975, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave and other artists recorded.

Virginia

Hampton's small downtown waterfront is dominated by the Virginia Air & Space Center, which will open a 15,000-square-foot exhibit hall in July.

In March, the $5 million Hampton History Museum is set to debut. Hampton University, founded in 1868, has the nation's oldest African-American museum. The campus also boasts a statue of Hampton student Booker T. Washington.

West Virginia

West Virginia boasts 25 African-American sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The African-American Heritage Family Tree Museum in Anstead, for example, includes artifacts from Booker T. Washington's life, while Camp Washington Carver at Clifftop was the first African-American 4-H camp.

In addition, there is a 137-mile Washington heritage trail, featuring 52 sites, structures, and historical villages that date to the late 1700s.

• • •

Travel South USA
Address:
3400 Peachtree Road NE Suite 725, Atlanta, GA 30326
Phone: (404) 231-1790
Fax: (404) 231-2364
E-mail:[email protected]
Web:www.travel-south.com

• • •

Travel South Schedule of events

Saturday, February 15
Afternoon
Travel South Registration Area Open
7:00 p.m.
Savannah Convention & Visitors Bureau and Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism welcome reception

Sunday, February 16
Morning
Registration area open
8:00 a.m.
Golf tournament
7:00 p.m.
Savannah Convention & Visitors Bureau and Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism opening party

Monday, February 17
8:30 a.m.
Louisiana breakfast
9:50 a.m.
On-site appointment scheduling sessions
10:53 a.m.
Marketplace session #1
12:40 p.m.
Kentucky luncheon
2:10 p.m.
Marketplace session #2
Evening
Dine-around Savannah & The Supper Club

Tuesday, February 18
8:30 a.m.
"Virginia Is For Lovers" breakfast
9:57 a.m.
Marketplace session #3
12:20 p.m.
West Virginia lunch
1:55 p.m.
Marketplace session #4
7:00 p.m.
Alabama closing dinner

Wednesday, February 19
6:30 a.m.
Shuttles depart for Savannah Airport from host hotels
8:00 a.m.
Post Travel South USA fam tours depart

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