Exclusive: Travel South USA International Showcase 2023 feeds the soul in Memphis

The annual Travel South USA International Showcase has wrapped, highlighting suppliers and partners from 12 US South states from 3-7 December 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. Karryon was one of the select global travel trade media on the ground to capture the unique soul of the highly anticipated annual event.

Cassie Tannenberg

The Australian and New Zealand delegation at Travel South International Showcase 2023.

More than 400 tourism professionals met in Memphis for the Travel South USA International Showcase –three intensive days of around 10,000 appointments plus networking and fun, soundtracked by some of the best music around.

The international delegates included the largest-ever contingent from Australia and New Zealand, attending for some of Australasia’s biggest agency and wholesaler groups as Aussies show record interest in Memphis and the South.

Travel South USA International Showcase is the South’s premier marketplace, connecting international travel partners with local destination marketing organisations and suppliers from 12 states.

Aussies and Kiwis assemble at the Kentucky Bourbon Reception.

With its base in Memphis, Tennessee this year, the three-day event was a jam-packed schedule of high-energy musical highlights, finger-lickin’ good food, bourbon-tasting receptions and cultural and historic moments in among the meet-and-greets.

As Travel South USA President & CEO Liz Bittner, who was also in Australia on a trade mission earlier this year, reminded the hyped-up crowd, the objective is to entice visitors to stay one more night, see one more attraction and visit one more destination to achieve its goal of USD$10 billion by 2026.

Showcasing the South

The Travel South USA International Showcase 2023 kicked off with pre-fams for travel trade before the main event.

International visitors embarked on Super Fam Tours in Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri – each featuring the distinct highlights and hidden gems of each state or region.

The ANZ delegation was all wowed by their carefully curated experiences in different states that presented all the very best things about the South.

What went down in Memphis

Gate 7 Managing Director Jo Palmer and Director, Tourism Development Penny Brand (centre) receive their Travel South USA Ambassador award with (from left) Travel South USA Board Member Rochelle Hicks, President & CEO Liz Bittner & Board Chair Mark Mangeot.

With everyone touching back down in the Land of the Delta Blues (with a nod to Marc Cohen), the travel trade dressed up for the Travel South USA International Showcase Honors Night Celebration at The Peabody Hotel, famous for its resident ducks.

Among the Travel South USA Ambassador Recipients recognised for 2023 were Australia’s own Gate 7 as Global Partner of the Year, Travel Associates as International Tour Operator – Australia and Adventure World.

The next day featured themed full-day Memphis City Tours with the entire group gathering at Elvis Presley’s Graceland for breakfast followed by a self-guided exploration of the estate, grounds and exhibits before dispersing on curated itineraries that highlighted the vibrant musical culture, civil rights history and welcoming hospitality of the city.

Beale Street Strut with Memphis Tourism Senior Director of Global Travel Trade Lisa Catron (right).

More music followed that night with the Music that Makes Memphis opening night celebration with a second-line procession up Beale Street to an exclusive performance by the city’s own Marcus Scott – well-known to anyone who attended Memphis Travel’s Sydney and Melbourne trade and media events in 2023.

The following day, the Travel South USA International Showcase opened with an uplifting Gospel & Grits breakfast that got everybody pumped up for a day of appointments, thanks to the soulful, spine-tingling sounds of the Tennessee Mass Choir and a surprise guest in the previous night’s talent, Marcus Scott.

Meet-and-greets

After a full day of meetings and networking, including a Rhythms of the South Luncheon with Nashville-based singer-songwriter Elizabeth Cook and a bluegrass band and tastings at the Kentucky Bourbon Reception, attendees had a free night to sample Memphis barbecue, soul food and the Beale Street entertainment.

For the final day of the Travel South USA International Showcase, trade delegates reconvened at Renasant Convention Center for a full schedule of supplier appointments, while the small international media contingent ventured out with Memphis Travel for an exclusive city tour of new and quirky finds.

With the one-of-a-kind opportunity to engage and meet with travel partners in person at various networking events and meetings, the ANZ trade delegation made meaningful connections with large organisations, new attractions and small players alike, forging valuable new relationships at the Travel South USA International Showcase.

We all met up again for the Muscle Shoals to Memphis Luncheon, featuring Sun Studios Founder Sam Phillips’ singer-songwriter son Jeff Phillips, and the fun retro night at Central Station Memphis.

The closing night’s ‘70s-themed Y’all Ball, complete with a light-up dancefloor, DJs, rollerskating dancers, tasty food stations and more sequins and glitter than you can shake a tailfeather at, was a fitting tribute to an exceptional event playlist that showcased the host city’s musical attributes to perfection.

Next year’s Travel South USA International Showcase will be hosted in Atlanta, Georgia from 30 November – 4 December 2024.

For more info, head to industry.travelsouthusa.com

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