Bielema, Hollywood Actor Among Keynote Speakers at Governor's Conference on Tourism

by Lee Hogan  on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 10:43 am  

Bret Bielema (Photo by Walt Beazley/UA)

Razorbacks football coach Bret Bielema and Andrew McCarthy, a Hollywood actor, producer and travel writer, are the opening and closing keynote speakers at the the 40th annual gathering of members from Arkansas’ tourism industry next month in Rogers.

The Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism is scheduled for March 9-11 at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center, and allows sessions on a variety of tourism topics including better practices in bringing travelers to Arkansas, perfecting a social media image and creating a storytelling experience for communities and attractions.

McCarthy, the opening keynote speaker, will talk on how travel changes travelers and give advice on good storytelling. The Hollywood actor and producer is known for his roles in “Pretty in Pink” and “Weekend at Bernie’s,” along with his production of hit television shows like “Gossip Girl” and “Orange Is The New Black.” 

McCarthy has also earned awards for his travel writing featured in National Geographic Traveler, The Wall Street Journal, Slate and Travel+Leisure.

Bielema, who enters his second year as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2014, is set to share his experience of relocating to Arkansas and how life in the south compares to his time spent in Wisconsin. Bielema is also scheduled to answer questions following his address.

Lynette Xanders, CEO at Wild Alchemy, will share information on how consumers plan trips and what they do when they come to Arkansas, in addition to covering what recent market momentum means for tourism and hospitality.

Jim Knight, a former Hard Rock International Senior Director, is set to share his thoughts on how to create and maintain an organizational culture by unifying staffs and propelling products through teamwork.

Wayfinding expert Jan Carpman, Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane and Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett are also planned speakers expected to cover ways good signage can improve visitation, what communities can do to prepare for potential film crews and how the new iPlan Arkansas will affect construction and traffic flows in the state.

This year’s theme, “Creating Partnerships, Building Business,” is meant to emphasize the need for cooperation and coordination within the state’s tourism industry in an effort to brig more guests to Arkansas. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Spring/Summer 2014 marketing plan will also be revealed during the afternoon open session.

The annual auction will take place March 10 at the Hammons Center. Money raised from the silent and live auctions will go toward funding scholarships for those seeking careers in the tourism and hospitality industries. All tips collected will go to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Wintrhop P. Rockerfeller Cancer Institute/Breast Cancer Research Project.

Registration is open online at, and the discounted early bird registration rate has been extended to Feb. 28. For questions on registration, contact Erik Holbrooks at (501) 682-1088 or email

For more information on the event, contact Marla Crider at (501) 682-1120 or email



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