Tuesday, October 19, 2010

American Bus Association Names Two Callaway Gardens Events as North America's 100 Best Events for 2011

The American Bus Association (ABA) announced earlier this month that Callaway Gardens’ Chrysanthemum Festival and the 20th annual Fantasy In Lights®, have been designated as two of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2011 by an experienced expert tourism industry selection committee. Inclusion in the Top 100 list, published as a supplement to the September/October issue of Destinations magazine, indicates that the Chrysanthemum Festival and Fantasy In Lights both offer excellent entertainment value to both tour groups and individual travelers from around the world, according to ABA.

During Chrysanthemum season, October and early-November, more than 10,000 mums of all sizes, shapes and hues provide beautiful splashes of color to Callaway Gardens’ seasonally changing landscape. A special highlight that come into color in early November are the beautiful plantings of carefully trained cascading mums.

Fantasy In Lights, the most spectacular holiday light and sound show in the South adds drama to the Gardens each evening from mid-November through December with more than eight million lights creating a Winter wonderland. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2011, the ride-through Fantasy In Lights has become a holiday tradition for many.

“We are honored to be recognized by ABA,” said John McKinney, motorcoach sales manager for Callaway Gardens. “Having worked with motorcoach groups for more than 20 years here at Callaway Gardens, I can tell you that motorcoach groups really enjoy the ability to come to one destination and enjoy a day experience and then, with Fantasy In Lights, a night experience. Seeing the azaleas in the Spring, the mums in the Fall and, of course, Fantasy In Lights is a big draw for groups.”

With the release of the American Bus Association's 2011 Top 100 Events in North America, ABA celebrates 29 years of the program. What began as a way for motorcoach operators to incorporate new product into their itineraries has grown to one of the most sought-after lists by travel professionals, motorcoach operators and the general public.

"The attractiveness of the Chrysanthemum Festival and Fantasy In Lights as don't-miss entertainment value is only part of why its selection this year is such a distinction for Callaway Gardens," said Peter J. Pantuso, CTIS, ABA's president and CEO. "The real news here is that the Chrysanthemum Festival and Fantasy In Lights have been recognized as potential magnets for tourism dollars, at a time when reenergizing domestic tourism is so important to our spirit and our economy. The honor gives Callaway Gardens an important boost in visibility among professional tour planners."

According to studies completed by researchers at The George Washington University and Dunham and Associates, one overnight visit by a motorcoach group can leave from US $5,000 to more than US $13,000 in a local destination's economy. Those dollars are spent on lodging, meals, admissions, fees, shopping, souvenirs, services and local taxes.

"Motorcoach groups spend more and stay longer,” Pantuso said. “That's why the Chrysanthemum Festival and Fantasy In Lights are truly local economic assets. There is no better way to jump-start tourism than to attract motorcoach groups to a great event and convince them to extend their stay."

ABA's 2011 Top 100 Events Selection Committee selected the Chrysanthemum Festival and Fantasy In Lights from among a record number of more than 650 event nominations submitted by ABA members. Judges considered the event's broad appeal, its accessibility to motorcoaches and skill at handling large groups, and a variety of other relevant criteria.

The Top 100 Events list is available online at www.buses.org/top100.

Tour group operators are invited to contact John McKinney, Callaway Gardens Motorcoach Sales Manager, at 1-800-543-7121 ext. 5135, 706-663-5135 or jmckinney@callawaygardens.com.

Callaway Gardens is in Pine Mountain, Ga., 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta and 30 minutes north of Columbus. To experience nature at its finest, call 1-800-CALLAWAY or visit www.callawaygardens.com.

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