2009 Arkansas Hospitality Association Trade Show and Convention was Cornerstone Event for Hospitality Industry Strategic Planning and Entertainment

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The 65th annual Arkansas Hospitality Association (AHA) 2009 Convention and Trade Show took place from September 21 - 24 at the Little Rock Statehouse and Convention Center, and was the state hospitality industry's leading event to explore the hottest trends happening now, as well as the trends of tomorrow. An increase in participation was seen across the board this year and participants were entertained by a variety of live demonstrations and exciting competitions. The AHA and its membership gained knowledge and resources to respond to industry trends with aggressive business decisions for the coming year, and beyond. Additionally, the show attracted many notable attendees and celebrity personalities.

Despite the current economic situation, the AHA saw over a twenty percent increase in overall participation this year

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The 65th annual Arkansas Hospitality Association (AHA) 2009 Convention and Trade Show took place from September 21 - 24 at the Little Rock Statehouse and Convention Center, and was the state hospitality industry's leading event to explore the hottest trends happening now, as well as the trends of tomorrow. An increase in participation was seen across the board this year and participants were entertained by a variety of live demonstrations and exciting competitions. The AHA and its membership gained knowledge and resources to respond to industry trends with aggressive business decisions for the coming year, and beyond. Additionally, the show attracted many notable attendees and celebrity personalities.

"Despite the current economic situation, the AHA saw over a twenty percent increase in overall participation this year," said Montine McNulty, Executive Director of the AHA. "There was excitement and hope in the air felt throughout the exhibit hall and exhibitors seemed much more engaged with each other and attendees than in years prior. Businesses in this industry are beginning to become more of a community - turning to each other for new ideas." The 2009 theme "Wild About Arkansas" had a positive effect on the show's atmosphere as well as the creativity seen throughout the exhibits, and nearly twenty percent of 2009 exhibitors were new to the show.

Making appearances at the AHA show this year were several government officials and local celebrities, including Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe and First Lady Ginger Beebe, Senator Shane Broadway, State Representative Jane English, Secretary of State Charlie Daniels, State Representative Bill Sample, Donna Kay Yeargan representing US Senator Blanche Lincoln, State Treasurer Martha Shoffner, Miss Arkansas Sarah Slocum, Mrs. Arkansas Nicole Knapp, Akansas State Fair Queen Ashley Shelton, Executive Director of Arkansas Parks & Tourism Richard Davies, Tourism Director of Arkansas Parks & Tourism Joe David Rice, several Arkansas Parks & Tourism Commission members, and Executive Chefs Todd Gold, Donnie Ferneau, Shane Henderson, André Poirot, George Desiderio, Jamie McAfee and Brian Cochrane. News crews from local television news stations KARK, KATV and KLRT also made appearances to cover the events.

The Wild About Arkansas week of hospitality kicked off with a golf tournament at the Country Club of Arkansas. Many challenges were placed before the competitors with several wagers placed on making a hole in one worth $1,000, which created much buzz and excitement. The Ben E. Keith team showed great strength again this year, earning the winning score to reclaim their championship title.

The evening prior to the tradeshow, the annual Chefs Culinary Classic competition and silent auction was held at the Statehouse Convention Center. "Many new chefs participated in the culinary competitions this year. Not only did we have several culinary school chefs and instructors competing, we also saw a lot of mentorship occurring behind the scenes," said McNulty. The Chefs Culinary Classic always provides a great backdrop for a silent auction. This year's auction featured over fifty different donated items, with representation from all areas within the AHA.

Highlighted on the Tradeshow floor was a variety of live demonstrations and exciting competitions, including the annual Iron Chef Competition, and bed making, bartending, hotel maintenance, banquet and bell cart wheelie competitions.

List of results and winners from all competitions, including exhibit awards

"The winners of each competition earn bragging rights in their trade, helping chefs, bartenders and hotel staff build their reputations as top talent. The AHA appreciates this year's strong sponsors who supported and continue to support this important initiative," said McNulty.

The first day of the show culminated with the annual AHA Awards Gala, where the Arkansas Hospitality Association installed the new officers for the 2010 board and presented awards to recognize the show's top exhibitors.

List of officers and board members for 2009-2010

Not only were participants entertained, they were also able to share their expert experiences and advice. Educational seminars focused on knowledge share between leading food and beverage, travel and tourism, promotion and exposure, equipment, and accommodation trends and culinary techniques. One of the notable sessions was a hotel General Manager round table discussion, where General Managers from hotels across Arkansas gathered to share their successes and challenges with regard to topics that affect their every day bottom lines, including internet marketing strategies, strategies to prepare for the next six months of business, and recommended ways to cut back on expenses while maintaining customer satisfaction.

The AHA held a board meeting during which representatives from each area of hospitality spent a great deal of time discussing the economic environment and its impact on the hospitality industry, sharing insights, information and trends seen in their businesses. Some of the recommendations included making new alliances and partnerships to support business growth, supporting staff members with training and resources, investing in facility improvements and to keep quality, consistency and service top priority.

"AHA is listening to the challenges our membership is facing, in addition to their successes. Our members deserve all the support we can offer as an organization," said McNulty. "The AHA staff has plans to dedicate some serious time to review the challenges, needs and trends heard throughout the meetings and seminars held during the show, working to provide resources and services to address them."

About Arkansas Hospitality Association
The Arkansas Hospitality Association (AHA), a 501(c)(6) private non-profit organization, is the official voice of the restaurant and entertainment, hotel and lodging, and travel and tourism industries in the state of Arkansas. The association serves as an umbrella organization for the Arkansas Lodging Association, the Arkansas Restaurant Association and the Arkansas Travel Council.

For more information on AHA and these events, please visit our homepage.

Media contact
Brianna McKinney
Penman PR
512.535.5066
e-mail: Brianna (at) PenmanPR (dot) com

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