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ATIA in October: Sitka lands biggest prize of convention year

SCVB director Tonia Rioux. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

What may be the largest convention in Sitka’s history is coming to town this fall. Sitka Convention and Visitor’s Bureau director Tonia Rioux shared the news with the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday (2-20-13).

“The ATIA is coming to Sitka. I’m excited about this. We’ll be having about 400 delegates, approximately.”

That’s 400 delegates of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, the statewide visitor industry marketing organization.

A typical large convention in Sitka might have 150-200 delegates, and take place in Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Rioux told the chamber she had a different venue picked out for the October gathering.

“We’re able to do all of it on the Alaska Arts Southeast – former SJ campus.”

Sheldon Jackson College closed in 2007 and was turned over to Alaska Arts Southeast – also known as the Sitka Fine Arts Camp – four years later. Rioux says the campus is well-situated for a huge meeting like the ATIA’s, which simply wouldn’t work in Harrigan Centennial Hall. She took a minute to outline the reasons:

The way that our convention areas are set up, they can’t accommodate that large a group. But because the Fine Arts Camp was willing to work with us, the Hames Wellness Center was willing to work with us, we’re willing to hold our general sessions inside the gymnasium. And so all of our general sessions and lunch will be held there. And there will be a trade show that will bring in just under 40 exhibitors that will be exhibiting their products from different locations in Alaska. I know Trip Advisor will be there. That will be held downstairs in Allen Hall. Then there are general break-out sessions every day during those three days where professional development courses are offered. All of those will be held upstairs in Allen Hall. Each of those will have 50 to 75 – maybe up to one hundred – participants.

Rioux encouraged chamber members and businesses to prepare for the arrival of so many guests in town – and certainly not boring guests. Rioux said ATIA members understood the importance of fun.

“This is a convention of 400 people who entertain for a living. We’re in the hospitality industry. So we’re looking to entertain, make sure people have a great time, make sure people have the best of everything we have to offer. And everyone who attends loves participating in those types of things.

Rioux said every ATIA convention had a theme. Sitka has proposed “The Fine Art of Tourism” to celebrate the connection with the campus. She told chamber members that sub-committees had formed to help plan everything from evening activities to gift baskets. She encouraged businesses to contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau with their ideas.

The ATIA annual convention will be held in Sitka October 8 – 10, and conclude just as the Alaska Day Festival is about to open.

Rioux concluded her presentation by screening four short promotional films the Visitors Bureau commissioned last summer. Here’s one of them, from filmmaker Ben Hamilton, with Pioneer Videography.

The Big Catch – Sitka, Alaska from Pioneer Videography on Vimeo.

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