Lake Ouachita and the Crater of Diamonds State Park welcomed a group of visitors from “across the pond” last weekend thanks to a tour sponsored by Brands USA.
The group of 15 travel agents from England, Ireland and Scotland are part of the FAM Tour sponsored by Brands USA.
Brands USA is the nation’s first public-private partnership to spearhead a globally coordinated marketing effort to promote the United States as a premier travel destination. They also work to communicate entry policies in the United States.
The FAM Tour is an effort to share the country with world. The group of 15 travel agents were a part of a larger group with each subgroup visiting a different region of the United States.
The group that visited Lake Ouachita and Crater of Diamonds State Park began their trip in Fort Worth and Dallas before traveling by bus to Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa in Joplin.
Rain threatened to spoil everyone’s fun, but a delay in their journey to the area provided enough time for the sky to clear. When the group arrived they were warmly greeted by the staff at Mountain Harbor and were treated to a tour of the lake on a houseboat by Bill and Dawn Cattaneo.
Some of the travel agents found the lingering clouds and cool temperatures on the Lake following the rain reminiscent of some of the lochs in Ireland.
While on the boat tour of the lake they enjoyed a meal provided by Jenn’s Specialty Foods. They also heard from the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce, Wegner Crystal Mines and Visit Hot Springs.
The speakers discussed some of the many attractions to the area. Kenn Greene, President of the Mount Ida Chamber of Commerce, shared some information about the many hiking and mountain biking opportunities in the area thanks to the Womble Trail, The Ouachita National Recreation Trail and the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. He talked about the three trails’ IMBA Epic status as well.
Pati Brown, Lodge Manager for Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa, shared the history of the resort and the lake upon which it sits. She discussed the many levels of lodging and the variety of services provided at their facility.
Richard Wegner was also on hand to discuss the rich history of crystal mining in the area. He also spoke of the eco friendly mining techniques utilized at his facility. Wegner also provided each guest with a crystal filled gift bag.
Cora Easterday and Billy Sample spoke on behalf of Visit Hot Springs. They shared some of the tourism options in Hot Springs and also brought some samples of craft beers brewed at Hot Springs’ own Superior Bathhouse Brewery. Superior Bathhouse beer is the only craft beer brewed from hot springs drawn from a national park.
The group was impressed with the beauty of the lake as the houseboat slowly drifted around the lake. Christopher Patrick Willoughby with Gold Medal Travels is an experienced traveler in the United States, but this was his first trip to Arkansas. He has driven across the United States several times for business and personal pleasure and was excited about the opportunity to see a part of the country he had missed.
Willoughby stated that although some Americans appreciate what they have, most don’t realize the opportunities available in the country.
“You can drive 12 hours from anywhere in the United States and see something different. We don’t have that in the UK.” He stated.
After their houseboat tour of the Lake the travelers were treated to an old fashioned campfire by their cottages where they were taught how to make smores. Although some didn’t care for the taste of the American treat, they all enjoyed the experience.
After a good night’s rest at Mountain Harbor they were treated to breakfast and then were off to Murfreesboro for a visit to the Crater of Diamonds State Park.
The whole group had questions about the diamond mine and were eager to try their hand at finding a diamond.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond mine in the United States open to the public where you can dig for diamonds and keep what you find.
After finishing up their tour in Arkansas the group is set to travel to Oklahoma to wrap up their FAM Tour. They will meet up with the rest of their group in Chicago before going home.
Members of the group included: Amy Dunmore (Thomas Cook), Amy Louise Davis (East of England Co-op Travel Tiptree), Anna Jerzanova (Light Blue Travel), Christopher Patrick Willoughby (Gold Medal), Corinne Nielsen (The American Road Trip Company), Holly Drew (Hayes & Jarvis), Julia Spencer (Flight Centre), Linda Brown (Killiney Travel Centre), Louise Thompson (Ocean Holidays), MARK HAWLEY (Magic Holidays), Pauline Jordan (Platinum Travel Dublin), Samantha Morrison (Simply Luxury by travel 2), Sophie Lambert Williams (Cosmos Tour and Cruises), Sophie Louise Ballantyne (Preferred Travel Farnham).
The tour was led by Emily Taylor (Brand USA UK & Ireland) andErin Setter (Brand USA).