Over 100 key leaders in the travel industry came together for an invitation only event at the renowned Barbican Centre in London on Thursday 13 July to celebrate the launch of Travel South USA’s new culinary campaign. The delegation consisted of representatives from Travel South USA, State Tourism Office Directors, nine partner states and their chosen culinary ambassadors, United States Embassy officials, airline representatives and members of the travel industry across media and trade. Part of a six-figure, fully-integrated campaign to increase spending and attract more visitors to the Southern states, the event welcomed collaborative state activity from Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Showcasing true southern hospitality and the region’s best produce, on arrival guests were treated to bite-sized samples from Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and South Carolina with each chef and spirit-expert storyteller demonstrating their signature dish or drink at a personalised station. Served canape style, appetisers included smoked bacon, crab remoulade, yellow cornmeal cakes with caviar and neat bourbon from Bardstown Bourbon Company.
Travel South USA Chairman, Doug Bourgeois, commented, “We were delighted to see so many people within the travel industry come together to discover and celebrate the cuisine of our southern states. Our ambassadors provided a wonderfully crafted menu that offered a glimpse into the region’s best produce and we hope it inspired guests enough to consider the south for their next holiday”.
For the main event, the menu was crafted by chefs from North Carolina, Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi using produce reflective of the region and served on individually branded plates. Introduced by the chefs before each course was presented, dishes included oysters, West Indies salad with crab, fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, and collard greens with hoe cake, pickled onions and hot sauce. For dessert, Jack Daniels pecan pie – a pudding born in Tennessee – served alongside a traditional Old Fashioned with a twist, complemented the end of the evening as guests were encouraged to explore and enjoy the flora and fauna of the conservatory surrounds.
Guests also enjoyed live music from two London-based jazz bands; Giacomo Smith’s Hot Five and Ben Somers String Band and were gifted with a bespoke coffee table book shining a spotlight on each of the state’s unique offerings, profiles of the culinary ambassadors and exclusive recipes.
Providing a tasty snapshot into what’s on offer in the culinary scene, Travel South USA also aims to offer insight into the state’s other distinctive pillars, including music, outdoors, history and culture and road trips. The UK & Ireland are the largest overseas markets to the Southern USA and in 2019 delivered 675,000 visitors pre-pandemic, spending over $1.053 billion. By 2024, the DMO fully expects to recover and reach $1.2billion.
The event is part of a six-month integrated campaign, incorporating digital content marketing, social media activities, media partnerships and paid ads, working together to promote the southern states and the diverse culinary scene.