This year’s Domestic Showcase, hosted by Southeast Tourism Society (STS), was held March 20-22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. People from across the country—346 in total—attended the three-day event, which comprised group tour planners, sales and marketing professionals, public relations representatives, and journalists.  

“Attendance was down slightly due to it being over spring break,” says STS President and CEO Monica Smith, “but the feedback we’ve received so far was that the quality of appointments was high, and attendees enjoyed the tours and off-site events.” 

Smith says she and her team were excited to be in Little Rock and the experiences they had there were memorable ones.  

“We were so grateful to the Little Rock CVB and Arkansas Tourism for hosting the event,” she tells Group Tour. “It’s been amazing to see the growth of Little Rock and the addition of new attractions and tourism assets to the destination. … Every time I visit Little Rock, I discover something new, and this visit was no exception.  The Little Rock CVB did a great job in hosting STS Domestic Showcase.” 

Likewise, Little Rock was happy to play host to Domestic Showcase, says Jeff Chastain, director of communications with Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s always a privilege to welcome so many industry professionals to our home, as it allows us to do more than tell you about our city—we get to show it to you,” he tells Group Tour. “Our partner attractions, hotels, and restaurants were also delighted to showcase what makes Little Rock special.”  

The event kicked off Wednesday, March 20, with tours around the host city, including media tours for journalists. That evening, an opening reception was held at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum, where, besides tasty eats, guests had the chance to self-guide parts of the center to see historical documents and memorabilia from President Bill Clinton’s time in office at the nation’s capital. 

William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum;
Credit: Andrew Weeks

The main event of the Showcase was held Thursday and Friday at the Statehouse Convention Center at the Little Rock Marriott Hotel, where representatives from the tourism departments of the Southern states and some of their cities shared information with members of the media and others about their destinations. The format was much like speed-dating, where a journalist, for instance, would spend 12 minutes with a marketing organization before moving on to the next appointment.  

One highlight for journalists was dinner at Brave New World, a gourmet restaurant that overlooks the Arkansas River and is known for its goat cheese mousse, walleye, and chocolate crème brulé. Its menu has many other options as well.  

When the event ended on Friday, another group of tours started the following day for those media types who had signed up to visit other areas of Arkansas. These post-event familiarity trips returned on Monday, March 25.   

“We hope our guests left with a picture of how much Little Rock has to offer,” Chastain says. “From the world-class Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts to the only purse museum in the country and the historic Central High School, we have so much culture to observe. Our dining scene is vibrant and diverse, and our outdoor activities start right here in town.” 

Typically, the location for the following year’s Domestic Showcase is announced on the final day of the event, but that didn’t happen this time. Instead, officials say they want time to evaluate this year’s gathering to see what modifications, if any, they may incorporate into planning next year’s event before announcing the next host city. They expect to make an announcement later this spring or early summer.  

Little Rock hosted Domestic Showcase about 10 years ago, a span of time that is “too long between visits,” Chastain says. “So much has changed in Little Rock [since then], and we are enjoying a forward momentum. There will be more to see in the future, and we will definitely want to host again!” 

By Andrew Weeks

Main Image: Visitor Center at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, near Little Rock, Arkansas; Credit: Andrew Weeks