Industry Update

March 22, 2012


AirTran Airways, which will be converted to Southwest Airlines over time, will begin daily nonstop service from Branson to Chicago and Houston starting April 16, 2012.

Chicago and Houston are major Southwest markets with connecting service to many great destinations. While the airlines’ networks are not connected at this point, both carriers are working together to publish the best flight schedules to places customers want to go. When the networks are connected, people traveling to and from these areas will have access to many more cities.

“These new daily flights to Chicago and Houston are very exciting because Chicago and Houston are large visitation markets for Branson” stated Executive Director, Jeff Bourk. “Ultimately, these routes will tie into the Southwest network, giving passengers many more low cost choices to get where our passengers want to go.”

On Friday, January 24, 2011, Southwest Airlines committed to serve Branson, Missouri. Southwest Airlines made the decision to serve Branson, Missouri and to convert AirTran Airways at Branson to Southwest Airlines operations over time.

“We are committed to continuing to serve these communities—at first via AirTran, and eventually as Southwest. We know there are Southwest Customers who want access to these cities, but have never before had the opportunity, and the markets have long desired Southwest service,” said Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer and AirTran Airways President Bob Jordan. “We are excited about the cities we have chosen to keep in our combined network.”

About Branson Airport: Opening its doors May of 2009, Branson Airport LLC is the first privately developed and operated commercial service airport in the United States. Currently serviced by Southwest Airlines/AirTran Airways and Frontier Airlines. Located in the heart of the Ozarks and centrally located in the Midwest, the airport also boasts a state of the art FBO, Branson JetCenter and a full service travel agency, FlyBranson Travel. The Airport offers low cost service to over 100 destinations. For more information, including a complete list of destinations available at the Branson Airport, visit www.flybranson.comor call toll free 1-888-FLY-BKG1 (1-888-359-2541)

In a first for the U.S., on January 19, President Barack Obama announced a national strategy for travel and tourism to boost travel to the United States. The New Orleans tourism industry was represented at the announcement as Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Stephen Perry was in attendance, where he was later sworn in by Secretary of Commerce John Bryson to serve a third term on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.

Perry has volunteered at the national level with industry advocacy groups such as the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and the U.S. Travel Association, which have been working closely with policy makers to shape strategies that will benefit businesses across the country. Through their work, and with the support of thousands of hospitality industry stakeholders, the announcement brings exciting new possibilities for the economy.

“Today is a very important day for the American economy,” said Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “President Obama recognizes the growing spending power of countries such as China and Brazil. Taking steps to open those markets in a safe and responsible manner will result in thousands of new visitors for the United States and New Orleans. It is incredibly rewarding to witness the president acknowledge the economic power and importance of the travel industry.”

The U.S. travel industry is a cornerstone of the U.S. economy, representing 1.8 trillion in economic output and supporting 14 million American jobs. In New Orleans, tourism generates 5 billion dollars in economic impact per year and supports 74,000 local jobs.

President Obama’s announcement calls for a national strategy to make the United States the world’s top travel and tourism destination, as part of a comprehensiveeffort to spur job creation. The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes – such as China, Brazil, and India – is projected to grow by 135%, 274% and 50% respectively by 2016 when compared to 2010.

By way of Executive Order, the president has charged several government agencies to take part in efforts and new initiatives to significantly increase travel. Some of the initiatives include: a new pilot program and rule change for visa processing in China and Brazil, a final rule to expand and make the Global Entry program permanent, appoint new members to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, and the Nomination of Taiwan to the Visa Waiver Program.

Stephen Perry has served as a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board since 2008 under the Bush Administration. He was asked to continue his service under the Obama Administration and has now been nominated for a third consecutive term. Perry is only one of two CVB presidents to sit on this board and advise U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary John Bryson and the President of the United States on all key matters relating to national travel and tourism policy.

As a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, Perry will provide recommendations and expertise on all matters related to the travel industry, including air transportation, airport security, Homeland Security, visa issues and State Department matters, congressional issues and legislative matters, international marketing, business travel, conventions and meetings and national travel industry advocacy, national regulatory and tax matters among many others.

The Southwest Missouri Lodging Association (SWMLA), the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau (JCVB), and the Joplin Sports Authority (JSA) have partnered together in a REVISIT JOPLIN – JOIN THE RECOVERY effort to bring meeting and event awareness back to Joplin. The purpose of the effort is to inform state tourism and association executives that Joplin’s meetings and convention facilities, including hotels and attractions, were not affected by the May 22, 2011 tornado. The intent is to enlist their support in being a part of the ongoing recovery efforts by bringing their events, conventions or association meetings to Joplin.

According to Patrick Tuttle, director, JCVB, “The citizens of Joplin are well into the recovery phase, but the work will take years to complete. Any level of awareness we can bring to our progress and the continuing needs, within the state of Missouri and beyond is an important message to get out.” Pete Hall, general manager of the Joplin Residence Inn and president of the Southwest Missouri Lodging Association stated, “In the months that immediately followed the tornado the Joplin properties were all in a full mode of supporting our residences. Now, with the emergency housing needs met, we are seeing business guests and vacation travelers coming back to Joplin.”

The REVISIT JOPLIN team would like the opportunity to bid on state association conventions and conferences; they are even encouraging associations to bring their board meetings or strategic planning sessions to Joplin. “Where better to have a brain-storm session for your association’s long-term thinking,” Tuttle adds, “than in one of Missouri’s most positive places of hope.” Revisit Joplin – Join the Recovery!!

For more information, contact Patrick Tuttle at (417) 850-3526 or [email protected].

The U.S. hotel industry is expected to report steady RevPAR increases in both 2012 and 2013, according to the most recent forecast from STR, in partnership with Tourism Economics.

Overall in 2012, the U.S. hotel industry’s occupancy is expected to rise 0.5 percent to 60.4 percent, its average daily rate is projected to be up 3.8 percent to US$105.45 and its revenue per available room is planned to increase 4.3 percent to US$63.68.

“2012 may prove to be challenging for the U.S. hotel industry,” said Randy Smith, co-founder and chairman at STR. “There are a number of issues that will confront the industry and overall economy this year. We believe that given how well the hotel industry did during 2011, it will be difficult in 2012 to show significant growth. However, we remain optimistic the industry will continue to report modest increases in 2012.”

Supply in 2012 is expected to rise 0.8 percent and demand is projected to increase 1.3 percent.

“The economic environment remains turbulent as we move into 2012,” said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics. “While the U.S. economy is showing signs of sustained growth, the recession in Europe and a slowdown in emerging markets will dampen lodging performance. Given the strong room demand experienced in the past two years, we expect modest demand growth of 1.3 percent, while rates continue their long climb back to prior peaks with growth of 3.8 percent.”

The forecast for 2013 includes:
• a 0.5-percent increase in occupancy to 60.7 percent;
• a 4.4-percent rise in ADR to US$110.06;
• and a 4.9-percent growth in RevPAR to US$66.81
In 2013 supply (+1.4 percent) and demand (+2.0 percent) are both expected to report growth.

STR ( provides clients— including hotel operators, developers, financiers, analysts and suppliers to the hotel industry—access to hotel research with regular and custom reports covering the United State, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean. STR provides a single source of global hotel data covering daily and monthly performance data, forecasts, annual profitability, global pipelines and census information. STR founded the STR family of companies and is proudly associated with STR Global, RRC Associates, STR Analytics, and Hotel- STR also founded the Hotel Data Conference (


WHAT: “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night”
WHEN: May 26-Aug. 19, 2012.
Grand Opening Weekend: May 26-28 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
May 31-July 29: Thursday-Sunday evenings from 6 to 10 p.m.
Aug. 1-19: Monday-Sunday evenings from 6 to 10 p.m. (last entry at 9 p.m. all nights)
WHERE: Missouri Botanical Garden,
4344 Shaw Blvd., South St. Louis, Mo.
COST: Grand Opening Weekend/exhibition evenings: $22 adults, $10 children (ages 3 to 12). Discounts for Garden members.

Elaborate, illuminated works of art from China will take center stage this summer at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” showcases Chinese culture, traditions and symbolism through larger-than-life, detailed scenes crafted from colorful silks and molded steel. The striking sets, ranging in size up to three stories tall, will be lit for special evening viewing, giving visitors the opportunity to experience a cultural event that is rarely staged outside of Asia. “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” runs for a limited 12-week engagement, May 26 through August 19, 2012, and is presented by Emerson.

Lantern festivals are deeply rooted in Chinese history and myth, dating back more than 2,000 years to ancient dynasties. Modern-day lantern festivals typically mark the culmination of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration, when giant, ornate lanterns of complex design fill cities with light in vivid, festive displays.

The summer exhibition at the Missouri Botanical Garden highlights its “Year of China,” celebrating the Garden’s long-tenured tradition of botanical research and collaboration with China through the Flora of China project, a 25- year endeavor nearing completion, and the inspiring Grigg Nanjing Friendship Garden (the Chinese Garden).

“Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” is among the first displays of its kind and size in the United States. A team of skilled artisans from Zigong in the western province of Sichuan, the center of the lantern-making industry in China, will spend two months in residence at the Missouri Botanical Garden to construct 26 elaborate, multi-piece lantern scenes from scratch. Working from reference drawings, sets begin as large outlines on the ground. Steel rods are carefully placed and welded together to fashion the framework of each figure. Structures are draped with specially treated Chinese silk, designed to withstand outdoor display for several months. Silk is secured to frame edges with a gold trim. The final creations are lit from within or adorned with an exterior piping of lights, giving them a brilliant evening glow.

Each lantern design alludes to celebrated aspects of Chinese culture. A giant, luminous dragon, stretching nearly half the length of a football field, welcomes visitors at the Missouri Botanical Garden entrance, bringing good luck in the Chinese Zodiac’s Year of the Dragon. An imposing group of 10-foot-tall Terracotta Army warriors depict the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The three-stories-tall showstopper Heavenly Temple mimics the beauty, magnificence and majestic presence of the Beijing Heavenly Temple, constructed in 1420 as a grand shrine where emperors would pray for a fruitful harvest.

Several lantern sets tell Chinese legends in great detail. The First Emperor’s Quest for Immortality explores the life— and fear of death—of First Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who sought a magic elixir that would offer him eternal life. Double Seventh Festival is based on the traditional tale of the young cowherd, Niulang, and a beautiful weavergirl, Zhinü, who fell in love, married and were parted by her Goddess mother. Butterfly Love recounts the story of Zhu Yingtai and her brokenhearted lover, Liang Shanbo. After Liang’s death, Zhu threw herself into his grave; their spirits turned into a pair of beautiful butterflies and they flew away together, never to be parted.

Chinese symbolism is also interwoven throughout the Lantern Festival sets. Zodiac Lanterns depicts the 12 animals that make up the Chinese Zodiac—people are thought to assume the qualities of the animal that represents their birth year. Lotus Ponds features a huge, color-changing, spinning vase, surrounded by eight-foot-tall stems of lotus flowers, symbols of elegance, beauty, perfection, purity and aspirations to “rise towards the light.” The swirling Dragon Embracing the Pillars again shows the mythical Chinese dragon, believed to be the ruler of moving bodies of water.

“Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” debuts at the Missouri Botanical Garden over Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 26 through Monday, May 28, open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. all three days (last entry at 9 p.m.). Grand Opening Weekend highlights include a Grand Parade with 70-foot-long dancing dragon, martial arts, Chinese calligraphy, authentic regional cuisine, t’ai chi and tea tasting. Special tours in the Chinese Garden focus on the symbolism of many plant species and architectural details. Enjoy performances by the China Sichuan Le Shan Chen Long Acrobatic Troupe and marvel at the large-scale lantern sets when they are illuminated for the first time at night.

Experience the magic of the Lantern Festival on Thursday through Sunday evenings, May 31 through July 29, and nightly seven days a week for the exhibit’s final weeks, August 1 through 19. Evening hours are 6 to 10 p.m. (last entry at 9 p.m.). Each evening is filled with entertainment for all ages. Watch acrobatic stage shows at the outdoor amphitheater. Toss a coin in the “wishing well” to ring one of the bells for good health, wealth or happiness. Exchange tokens at traditional artisans’ tents for spun sugar candy lightly brushed into intricate shapes or for delicately-painted Eglomise pieces made from hollowed-out eggs. Have your name written in “dragon-phoenix calligraphy,” in which letters resemble birds and flowers, or have a mask elaborately painted in a Chinese opera mask design. Marvel as an artisan pours cups of Chinese kung fu tea from a distinctively long-necked tea pot. Be enchanted as the 26 lantern scenes flood the Garden with light each evening at sunset.

“Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” admission is $22 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $10 for children (ages 3 to 12). Purchase tickets online at or in person at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Join or renew your Missouri Botanical Garden membership on site during the Lantern Festival and receive free sameevening admission for two adults and children ages 12 and under, plus enjoy discounted evening tickets of $15 for adults and $5 for children (ages 3 to 12) for the remainder of the exhibition (the number of member-rate tickets available for purchase is based on the level of membership). Visit or call (314) 577-5118.

Tour groups of 15 or more individuals enjoy reduced evening admission when booked a minimum of three weeks prior to the date of the visit. Call the Tourism Department at 1‑800‑332‑1286 or email [email protected] to plan your group outing.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in south St. Louis, accessible from Interstate 44 at the Vandeventer exit and from Interstate 64 at the Kingshighway North and South exit. Free parking is available on site and two blocks west at the corner of Shaw and Vandeventer. Visit www.metrostlouis. org to plan your route using public transportation.

For general Garden information, visit or call (314) 577‑5100 (toll-free, 1‑800‑642‑8842). For information about “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night,” visit www.mobot. org/lanternfestival. Follow the Missouri Botanical Garden on Facebook and Twitter at and To learn more about visiting St. Louis, log on to

“Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” is presented by Emerson, with individual lantern installations sponsored by BSI Constructors; Boeing; Drury Hotels Company; Edward Jones; Emerson; the Konzen Family; Macy’s; the Missouri Botanical Garden Corporate Council; Scottrade; the Gene and Judy Toombs Family; and UMB Bank, N.A. Education programming sponsored by the Regional Arts Council. In keeping with the Missouri Botanical Garden’s commitment to sustainability, Ameren Missouri Pure Power will donate Missouri wind energy credits to offset the electricity required to power the exhibit for nighttime viewing. For information on Lantern Festival sponsorships, call the Garden’s Division of Institutional Advancement at (314) 577-9495 or email [email protected].

As business conditions gradually improve in a climate of economic uncertainty, meeting professionals work to develop value and deliver employee education (particularly in hybrid and virtual technology). Suppliers and third-party planners are increasing marketing efforts, adding and honing staff and implementing more strategic approaches to sales and marketing. Planners and suppliers are both looking for ways to add efficiencies to their offerings to make slim budgets go further, and many continue to look for ways to work together to create win-win scenarios for stakeholders according to the latest MPI Business Barometer report.

Ten percent more meeting professionals have seen increased full-time employment in the U.S. and Europe since October 2011, and 15 percent more U.S. meeting professionals report increases in part-time and contract employment (some say due to new employee health care requirements).

Business levels continue to increase slowly, requiring many companies that were “doing more with less” to hire and train (as they note that new hires aren’t generally from within the industry). Respondents say the industry labor pool shrank during the past few years as meeting professionals left to start new careers or launch their own companies, thus increasing competition and pricing pressure.

Meeting professionals (planners and suppliers alike) say they are increasing their value-add in order to differentiate their services from competitors, making employee training increasingly important. Meeting professionals are finding new strategic partners, increasing the number of services they offer and narrowing the scope of their marketing.

Concerns over economic instability have spread globally as meeting professionals eye U.S. politics and economic turmoil, Eurozone weaknesses and global economic (mal)health. Third-party planners and suppliers have begun developing more strategic marketing plans and improving efficiency, while corporate and association planners rely on aggressive contract negotiations and plan further ahead to lock in low prices.

Meeting professionals report a rise in food and beverage costs in many regions, and this increase leads to significant cutbacks in F&B offerings, the implementation of voucher and coupon systems, and thinner buffets (expecting to run out of food with the last person).

The divergence in U.S. and European attendance levels (featured in the October 2011 Business Barometer), reversed in December, with both U.S. and European meeting professionals indicating increases of about 1.5 percent over last year. Canadians report an increase of about 1 percent.

As for budget/spend, Canadian, European and U.S. meeting professionals all report 1 percent growth year-on-year. While the increase isn’t much, it has been consistent over the past year, supporting claims that the industry is experiencing a gradual recovery.

That said, some meeting professionals (mainly third-party planners, individual properties and specific service providers) report consistent business declines over the past year. These reports come from Asia, Canada, Europe, Mexico and the U.S.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the meeting and event industry’s largest and most vibrant global community, helps its members thrive by providing human connections to knowledge and ideas, relationships and marketplaces. MPI membership is comprised of more than 23,000 members belonging to 71 chapters and clubs worldwide.

The MPI Foundation launched FutureWatch in November 2002 as a forecasting vehicle for the meeting industry. This groundbreaking study has changed with time, measuring different aspects of the industry and experimenting with new ways to create an accurate forwardlooking picture for the event sector. In order to address the increasing speed of industry progress and communications, MPI changed this annual study in December 2011 into an ongoing program of industry monitoring, with bi-monthly reporting and an annual benchmark study.

Thirty of the U.S. National Ice Carving Association’s (NICA) champion Ice Carvers are coming to Branson to blast, drill and torch three-hundred-pound chunks of ice into amazing works of art starting at 9 a.m. Sat., Feb. 4, and finishing at 3 p.m. on Sun., Feb. 5, at the Titanic Museum Attraction’s outdoor staging center.

This marks the first time ever that NICA has chosen the city of Branson for its annual world-class championship competition and it promises to be the biggest and best in the association’s 25- year history. The two-day family event will be hosted by the Titanic museum attraction. This outdoor event is FREE to the public both days.

“NICA is projecting a 20,000 visitor turnout for the grand nationals,” says John Joslyn, owner of Titanic Museum Attraction.

Sculptors will be competing for a prize purse valued at over $25,000, and for the possible chance to represent the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

The Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson, Missouri is open during this national event at 9 a.m., and you may purchase museum tickets online at or call 800-381-7670.

The 18th Annual Hot Winter Fun Big Show begins at 7:00 p.m. on Mon., Feb. 6 at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre .

Branson, dubbed the “live music show capital of the world,” is the perfect place to escape the winter blues and Branson’s Hot Winter Fun Big Show is the perfect event to sample a wide variety of shows and performers jam-packed into one exciting show. You’ll see portions of several shows that are open during the winter months. The Big Show will be emceed by popular Branson entertainer, Bob Leftridge of the Baldknobbers Jamboree. Shows on stage include Legends In Concert, “it” from the Hughes Brothers Theatre, Baldknobbers Jamboree, Grand Jubilee, Clay Cooper, Take It To The Limit-Eagles Tribute, A Tribute To Marty Robbins, Hank Williams Revisited, and more.

“The Big Show has become a tradition for many visitors who plan their trip to Branson around the event. It’s also something local residents enjoy because they get to see some of the new acts opening for the season and some of their longtime favorites,” says Clay Cooper.

Tickets for Branson’s 18th Annual Hot Winter Fun Big Show can be purchased by calling Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater directly at 417-339-3003 Tickets are $30 plus tax and service charge for adults, $ 9.95 plus tax and service charge for children ages 4 through 12.

(Please note the snow date for the Hot Winter Fun Big Show is Wednesday, February 15)

With average daytime temperatures that rise well into the 50s, the winter months are a wonderful time to visit Branson. In fact, trout fishing on Lake Taneycomo is ideal this time of year. There’s no shortage of things to do and see. The Titanic museum attraction, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Hollywood Wax museum, many shows and about a dozen more family attractions are great places to get out of the cold.

Branson is also home to more than 200 outlet stores, Branson Landing’s array of specialty stores, boutiques and galleries and the Historic Downtown Branson shopping district filled with quaint shops, cafes and flea markets. Many area resorts and lodging properties offer discounts during the winter months. For more information, and to find Hot Winter Fun Special Offers, you can visit or call 877-BRANSON. MM&E

About the author

The MEET® Family of Publications

The MEET® Family of Publications produces regional and national publications that keep corporate, association, medical, education, independent, and religious meeting and event planners informed about relevant industry suppliers, news, tech innovations, and resources that impact and influence how and where they plan their upcoming company function(s).