From January 12-17, 2017, the American Bus Association held its annual conference in Cleveland, Ohio, called the city that Rocks, with its Rock ‘N Roll Museum – a MUST to visit if you are in Cleveland. I, Judy, went to the conference to network, meet through pre-planned appointments with tour operators and bring buses rolling into Jackson for the Historic Prison Tours and visits to the other interesting, fun, educational, and tasty venues Jackson has to offer.
Arriving at the Cleveland airport, I took a cab to the Downtown Hyatt Regency, located in what was the oldest shopping mall in the USA, built in 1890. Today, the old mall has an assortment of independent shops on its ground floor, and the hotel takes up the rest of the floors. The ambience is definitely still that of the 1890’s, and I felt I should be dressed in a Victorian dress over a laced Victorian corset. Happy I wasn’t so confined, I ate a delicious sandwich in a restaurant in the mall that rightly boasts of its Belgian chocolate treats and the best martinis in town. A fan of both Belgian chocolates, as my daughter and her family live there, and a confessed devotee of vodka martinis, I fully intended to take further advantage of the place after conference hours, and did.
I left my beautiful room that felt like a journey back in time to the era in which the mall was constructed and went to the convention center. Since appointments had not yet begun, and Saturday was still a day of arrivals and set-ups for exhibitors, I went dressed in a maroon sweater, slacks, and not in my usual attire of black and white stripes worn for tours and sales outings to sell the tours. I was pleased to see that in my third year of attendance, as those in the tourism industry had advised, I would finally be known and recognized. (This doesn’t happen with a one-time visit to these conferences). However, as I walked through the aisles, the consistent call flew towards me, “Hey, Prison Lady, you’re not wearing your stripes!”
Alas, for the rest of the conference, I donned my black and white and thought, “Can I ever escape?”
All went really well. My appointments showed that the Historic Prison Tours are known and widely praised by those who have taken them. Word of mouth is a major way for a tourism business to grow. Word has certainly gotten out there. It is only February, and we already have 18 bus groups signed, sealed and delivered, with others being negotiated and the phones ringing and emails shooting. And these numbers do not include the numbers of visitors from the general public who book our daily tours.
So, I am pleased to say that the tour business for us looks happy and healthy for the 2017 season that begins April 1st. If you have already taken our tour, tell friends about it, or take it again. We are always coming up with new tales of prison past and present to make you laugh, cringe, sigh, and smile.