The Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau's (CVB) Sales & Servicing Department hosted a familiarization trip last November to increase awareness of Oklahoma City as a convention destination.

"We were excited to have groups such as US Rowing and The National Exchange Club attend the first trip of this kind for the CVB," said Elizabeth Richardson, director of sales and services. "Having the full attention of educational, ethnic, medical, government, religious and sports convention and event planners on Oklahoma City for two days was invaluable."

CVB staff welcomed 17 attendees from 10 different groups for a trip packed full of activities to highlight everything Oklahoma City has to offer as a convention and/or sports event destination. Attendees enjoyed an opening night in Bricktown, taking a ride on the Bricktown Water Taxis before a reception at Nonna's Euro-American Ristorante & Bar with a welcome from Mayor Mick Cornett. The group ended the night at the OKC Arena watching the Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Philadelphia 76ers. To add to the excitement, Rumble the Bison stopped by to welcome the attendees to Oklahoma City.

A true Oklahoma breakfast at Cattlemen's Steakhouse in Historic Stockyards City kicked off day two, followed by a stop at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum to view the exhibits and event space before lunch aboard an Oklahoma River Cruiser. Tours of the Cox Convention Center and the Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center Hotel helped planners see the convention space available for their groups. A private tour was given of Dale Chihuly: The Collection at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art before dinner at the Museum Café. Entertainment for the evening was SHREK THE MUSICAL at the Civic Center. A nighttime tour of the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum gave attendees a sense of how the Oklahoma City community has grown in the 15 years since April 1995. The final morning included breakfast and a tour of the Skirvin Hilton, along with a tour of the Sheraton Hotel.

"This trip to Oklahoma City was impressive," said Sally Johnson, executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports. "It seems to me that there are hundreds of thousands of cities and towns in the USA who could take a page out of Oklahoma City's book on how to grow a unified progressive city while welcoming people with open arms that are full of an abundance of warm hospitality."

Of the 10 groups that attended the familiarization trip, seven asked to have tentative space held for future conventions in Oklahoma City. To date, two of those seven groups have selected Oklahoma City and signed hotel contracts. The CVB plans to make this an annual event to bring in groups that may have not considered Oklahoma City as a convention destination for their organization. Through the relationships the CVB has with various partners throughout Oklahoma City, the familiarization trip proved to be a team effort across the board.

"The CVB could not have produced a successful trip without the help of our industry partners," said Richardson. "It was a true group effort to showcase Oklahoma City."