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Travel South USA ends Aussie events with sparkling show & optimism  

I could count on two hands (or perhaps even one) the number of times a trade event has ended with a call and response (where a musician offers a phrase and an audience replies with the same phrase or another). 

I could count on two hands (or perhaps even one) the number of times a trade event has ended with a call and response (where a musician offers a phrase and an audience replies with the same phrase or another). 

But then again, few regions of the world are as inextricably linked with music as the states represented by Travel South USA – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia – who wrapped up a series of travel trade events across Australia on Friday. 

It also helps when you can call upon an act the calibre of Tennessee’s Grammy award-winning duo, Louis York (Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony), who performed at each event, courtesy of sponsors Rhythms of the South.

Travel South USA roadshow guests
Travel South USA roadshow guests

Travel South USA President and CEO Liz Bittner told Karryon at the last event of the week – an informal gathering filled with southern-inspired food, cocktails and of course music, at the Aster Bar on level 32 of the Intercontinental Hotel Sydney – that the region offered Australians an entirely different proposition to that offered by the more visited west coast – led by its renowned barbecues, warm hospitality and more music than you could poke a guitar pick with.

Speaking to guests at the event, Bittner said that although the Southern US region was “about the size of continental Europe … what ties us together more than the geography is what the experiences are for the clients and customers from Australia and New Zealand”. 

Specifically, she talked up the region’s food, culture, “and ultimately our people”.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans.

Big numbers

“Pre-pandemic, we had a little over 200,000 Aussies and Kiwis that came to visit [per year]. But more importantly, they spent about US$350 million (AU$525m),” Bittner added.

While the region – like most places post-pandemic – had a bit of a “hole to dig ourselves out of … we are very confident that we are going to surpass that spend in 2025, 2024 probably – and surge past about $450 million (AU$675m)”.

And while she joked that things had become a little more expensive since COVID, the reason for the optimistic outlook around spend was based on visitors’ desire to find deeper and richer experiences, especially after having travelled such long distances from Australia and NZ.

For more information about Travel South USA, click here.

Read our interview with Memphis Tourism Australia Director Chris Ingram, in which we learn about the sights, and indeed sounds, Aussies can’t miss in Memphis.