Last week about 20 conference and meeting planners were in Knoxville for what is known in the industry as a “fam tour” — which is short for familiarization tour. The three-day event was organized by Visit Knoxville, formerly the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation (KTSC). One of the stops on the tour was, naturally, the Knoxville Convention Center, which is a Moxley Carmichael client, and the Blue Streak was invited to stop by and check out the action.
It was a blast! Every fam tour has a theme, says Kim Bumpas, executive director of Visit Knoxville. The theme for this one was, “Look What’s Cooking in Knoxville!” and the folks at the Convention Center took this theme literally. They decided to teach the visitors how to make biscuits as part of the tour of the Convention Center’s huge catering kitchen.
In addition to the planners, the Convention Center invited members of City Council and top city administrators. I guess everybody needs to learn how to make biscuits! The result was a great time for team-building and camaraderie while, at the same time, a chance to show off the Convention Center’s fabulous versatility and options for accommodating conferences and meetings for anywhere between 50 and 5,000 guests.
Although the Blue Streak was only present for one stop on the fam tour, the rest of the group’s trip was chock-full of non-stop activity. Wednesday started with an evening reception at the Four Points by Sheraton followed by a stop at the Sunsphere and a “showcase” at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Thursday started bright and early with breakfast at the downtown Hilton, a downtown driving tour, stops at James White’s Fort, the East Tennessee History Center and Market Square before lunch at the Crowne Plaza. Then came the biscuit making at the Convention Center followed by a stop at the Marriott, bike riding and hiking courtesy of the Knoxville Outdoor Adventure Center and a bluegrass and barbecue dinner there. After that: nightcaps at the Oliver Hotel. Friday was breakfast at the World’s Fair Holiday Inn followed by trips to the airport. Whew!
Bumpas says Visit Knoxville produces about three of these tours per year. They are extremely intense, both for the visitors and the hosts. “The idea of the fam tour is to overwhelm them with what Knoxville has to offer,” Bumpas said. “We run them from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. When those planners leave, they feel like family.”
The idea, she said, is for them to get a “big picture perspective of what Knoxville is all about.” Usually, at the opening reception, Bumpas said, all kinds of area attractions and accommodations are represented and pass out material to the planners. “It’s like a trade show,” she said. Then the tour visits selected locations with the Convention Center almost always the centerpiece of the tour.
The goal is to get several of the visitors to come back for a more individualized site visit. That’s when Visit Knoxville really sells the planner on what might be perfect for his or her specific group’s event in Knoxville and its surroundings. Bumpas said she thinks the fam tour that just ended will result in several site visits. “I could tell they were surprised and impressed about what Knoxville has to offer,” she said.
A side benefit is that everyone will be eating better biscuits as a result of the visit!
As he bade adieu, Eddie Mannis told the visitors, “If you bring your group to Knoxville, I’ll make all your biscuits!” Now that’s something I’d like to see!
Click here for a link to Mary Bogert’s blog about this event on the Convention Center’s website.