More than 30 international tour operators and travel planners from Brazil and Europe will be in Owensboro on Thursday, Dec. 5, checking out the city's attractions.

Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Chris Gendek, of Visit Owensboro Destination Services, is in St. Louis this week for the Travel South International conference, talking to the tour operators and planners about Owensboro.

Chris Joslin, executive director of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, is also at the meeting, playing bluegrass and telling the tour operators about the Hall of Fame.

Dave Kirk, the CVB's destination management director said a full day of activities is being planned for the visitors from Brazil, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and The Netherlands.

They are scheduled to arrive at the Holiday Inn Riverfront and Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Owensboro/Waterfront at 11:15 a.m. Thursday.

After lunch at Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, they'll tour the Hall of Fame and sit in on a jam session.

Then they'll tour O.Z. Tyler Distillery and throw axes at Escape Today.

The visit will end with dinner at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art catered by City Walk.

Kirk said Owensboro's proximity to St. Louis made the visit possible.

"They're going to several places in Kentucky," he said. "But we're the first stop, and we'll get to make the first impression."

Kirk said many of the people on the tour have been to New York City and Chicago.

Now, they're looking for something different and authentic, he said.

Owensboro, Kirk said, is "very affordable."

"The CVB is putting a lot of effort into this because it's so valuable," Calitri said.

The visit is part of the CVB's effort to increase leisure travel from the international market, he said.

Gendek said, "Each of these tour operators and travel planners represent groups of hundreds of potential travelers who are looking for that next unique trip to the United States. We want to leave a lasting impression on them so that when they are selling trips to their clients, Owensboro is at the top of their list."

Joslin said. "For most international tour operators, Owensboro is undiscovered territory. So, this is a great opportunity for them to experience first-hand what we have to offer. A big part of our identity centers upon music, and it’s something that differentiates Owensboro."

He said the Kentucky Department of Tourism is featuring bluegrass at the travel show.

"I'm glad to be leading the bluegrass band representing our city and our state," he said.

Kirk said Owensboro already attracts visitors from Japan and Europe.

"Brazil represents a new market for us," he said.

Last year, the Hall of Fame drew visitors from Australia, Netherlands, France, Canada, England, South Africa, Germany, Brazil, Ecuador, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Israel, Switzerland and New Caledonia.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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