Hospitality trade show brings out vendors, local tourism employers

Mar. 09, 2013 @ 04:27 PM

Where can you eat meatballs, learn about whitewater rafting and examine shower curtains, all under one roof? At the Sevier County Hospitality Alliance Trade Show.

The 12th annual event took place Thursday at the Holiday Inn.

Rows of booths were staffed by more than 100 vendors, including banks, caterers, cleaning supply companies and a firm that sells really big washing machines. Representatives greeted visitors and pitched their wares. At the Calhoun's table, barbecue sizzled.

"Vendors come and showcase products for area hospitality businesses like restaurants and hotels," said the Gatlinburg Hospitality Association's Christie Jordan, who chairs the event. "There are textile companies that provide linens and towels, credit card companies, any kind of company that might provide a service or product."

The trade show is sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Vacation Lodging Association and the hospitality associations of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.

At one booth, business owner Angie Smith represented Mountain Fresh Hospitality Services, a provider of hotel supplies and services. Towels, linens and small bottles of shampoo were arranged on a table. "We're giving out information and making contacts," she said.

Nearby, a booth was manned by Glenn McCorkel of Sunburst Chemicals. "We have all kinds of cleaning and sanitation supplies for the hospitality industry," he said. "Our solid laundry system is our biggest seller."

The trade show is an opportunity "to see customers we already have and pick up new customers," McCorkel.

Also represented: Local recreation companies and theaters. "The [trade] show's been going on so long that people know this is the place to be," said Laurie Taylor of Country Tonite Theater. "People like to see each other, see old friends."

The trade show was especially busy this year, Taylor noted, and that could reflect an improving economy. "Everybody seems to be really positive this year," she said. "I know we are."

Schools including Walters State Community College had a presence. At the King University booth, representative Matt Lee talked up the institution's hospitality management program.

King University representatives had a prime spot in the big room, right by the door. "We catch 'em as they come in and as they go out," Lee said.

Pigeon Forge Mayor David Wear strolled the aisles. "I'm just looking around, seeing what's going on," he said. "A lot of effort went into this. It's good for the effort and good for the city."

Amanda Still and Jochlyn Clabo clutched promotional materials they had picked up at booths. They are employees of the Park Grove Inn.

"We've found a few vendors of stuff we really do need," said Still. "We work in group sales, so the more information we have for our clients, the better."

kburns@themountainpress.com