So just how does the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) attract conventions, meetings and sporting events to town? The city’s reputation for Southern hospitality has a lot to do with it, but LRCVB works as well with local residents who attend conventions, meetings and sporting events in other cities and states to help draw these events to central Arkansas.
The Little Rock “Rock Star” program was launched in 2018 to recognize those residents who help recruit these events to the city. This year, 39 residents were inducted into the LRCVB Rock Star Hall of Fame for their work in helping attract 30 conventions to town resulting in 17,440 visitors, 15,300 nights spent in local hotels and a direct economic impact of $5.5 million.
Word of mouth can be a powerful tool, and Little Rock’s “Rock Stars” have been promoting their city across the country. In 2018, the inaugural class of 54 helped bring 43 conventions, meetings and sporting events to Little Rock. Between June and August of 2019 alone, LRCVB hosted 112 meetings and conferences that included more than 600,000 people providing a direct economic impact of $20 million.
Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, has always believed the capital city’s best assets are its own residents who help the city tap into a $845 billion meetings industry in the U.S. “We want to make sure Little Rock continues to get its share of those funds, and you’re a big part of that,” she told honorees.
The second-annual Little Rock “Rock Star” Awards Luncheon honoring the 2019 inductees was held Dec. 2 at the Robinson Center. Honorees for 2019 are Carlos Corbin, Charles King, Ben Batten, Bishop Kenneth L. Robinson, Joshua Townsend, Derek Brown, Trena Mitchell, Greg Hatcher, David Gill, Jeannie Ford Andrews, Billy Brooks, Kamela Rowland, Ray Rodgers, Dick Browning, Bryan Day, Suzanne Ornelas, Pam Garner, Eric Munson, Joe Thompson, Erma Peterson, Anthony McMullen, Jordan Tinsley, Dr. Jon Oden, Roderick Smothers, Tjuana Byrd, Chris Riggins, Wyn Norwood, John Montgomery, Kay Tatum, Doug Zollner, Steve McClellan, Leslie Rush, Dr. Carl Drexler, Dr. Elizabeth Horton, Dr. Andrew Beaupre, Brian Kutsch, Jerry Adams, Bryan Barnhouse and Julie LaRue.
With the city now home to more than 7,200 hotel rooms, 16 direct flights from seven airlines, numerous meeting venues including the Statehouse Convention Center and Robinson Center, a great variety of attractions and a burgeoning dining and craft beverage scene, LRCVB hopes to enlist more “Rock Stars” to help recruit more events to Little Rock. Thinking of pitching Little Rock as a meeting destination for your group or organization? LRCVB staff can assist with site selection, bid preparation and anything else to help secure the meeting.
Janet Carson with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an honorary “Rock Star.” Several years ago, her group experienced first-hand the benefits of meeting in Arkansas’ capital city based on her recommendation.
“When I brought the International Master Gardener Conference to Little Rock, there was some resistance from the board; some wanted to go to Las Vegas,” she says. “But once they came, they were amazed. It is still regarded as one of the best – if not THE best – conference. We went to Vegas two years later, and it was a bust. Everyone who had been in Little Rock wished they were back here.”
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