For the past seven years, Atlanta hospitality industry officials have been targeting the health care meetings and convention market and the efforts seem to be paying off. "It's a lucrative market," says Carey Rountree, executive vice president for sales and marketing at the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, "and we are now beginning to get the results."

Last year, some 99,095 medical industry delegates visited Atlanta and spent nearly $100 million on lodging, food, and transportation. Rountree points out that medical industry attendees tend to stay at the most expensive els in the city and generally spend a higher dollar amount per individual--a conservative estimate is $328 per day.

"We have the infrastructure to support the effort," Rountree says, "and more than the bricks and mortar to attract this market." He points specifically to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, headquartered in Atlanta, and the strong community relationships with the academic sector that supports medical meetings activity there.

Atlanta hopes to attract even more medical events with the $220 million expansion of the Georgia World Congress Center. Last November, GWCC hosted the city's largest medical convention, the 25,000-delegate American Heart Association convention. The expansion project will add 25 meeting rooms and two lecture halls--the types of facilities that fit the profile for meeting-intensive medical events. --Anna Chinappi

Venue Menu The Old Medical College in Augusta, designed by Charles B. Cluskey, was the first medical school in Georgia and one of the first in America, serving as a hospital center during the war. Today, it is a popular meeting site with 7,000 square feet of meeting space. Call (706) 721-7238.

Melhana is a 174-year-old plantation complex set on 50 lush acres lined with majestic oaks and fragrant magnolias four miles south of Thomasville, Ga. Two dozen historic buildings make up the plantation. Among the most popular for groups are the Inn at Melhana, the original Greek Revival-style home also referred to as the Pink House; The Village at Melhana, an elegant restaurant; the formal gardens; an Art Deco poolhouse; and The Showboat Theatre, where Gone With the Wind premiered for film investors and their guests in 1930. Located in the former plantation garages are meeting spaces that can accommodate one large group of 100 theater-style or up to 80 people in three divided rooms. Call (888) 920-3030 or click on

A new Gone with the Wind museum opened at the Margaret Mitchell House, the turn-of-the-century home where this newspaper woman-cum-author penned much of her Pulitzer Prizewinning novel. The new museum features the collection of Herb Bridges, who is considered to be the world's foremost authority on the movie. During the day, group tours are offered and the house is available after 4 p.m. for receptions or dinners for up to 200. Call (404) 249-7012.

Once the haunt of the very wealthy, today Jekyll Island attracts medical meetings. The Medical College of Georgia brought a group of 59 dentists "back to the Old South" for continuing education classes in September, says Patsy Pennington, senior conference coordinator for the college.

The meeting, entitled "14th Annual 'Specialize' Your General Dentistry" was held at the Jekyll Island Club for four and a half days over Labor Day weekend.

"The grounds here are absolutely beautiful," says Pennington. "They are dotted with oaks draped with Spanish moss, and there is even a croquet green."

Built in 1886, the Jekyll Island Club, with its wrap-around verandas and Queen Annestyle towers and turrets, was a private club for the rich, frequented by the likes of J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, and Joseph Pulitzer, as well as the Vanderbilts, Goulds, and Astors.

Today, the full-service resort, which is listed as a National Historic Landmark, features 134 guest rooms and 6,200 square feet of meeting space. There is no shortage of things to do on Jekyll Island, with golf, tennis, fishing, biking, and 10 miles of beaches. During their free time, many of the dentists enjoyed the 63 holes of golf on the island, including three 18-hole, par 72 courses.

Venue Menu Opening in spring 2000 on Charleston Harbor, the new South Carolina Aquarium, home to 5,000 plants and more than 10,000 animals, including fish, sharks, jellyfish, alligators, snakes, and birds, will be available for group functions from 20 to 2,000. The Great Hall, the aquarium's main event space, features a two-story stained-glass window, a terrazzo tiled floor, and sweeping views of the harbor. Call (843) 720-1990 or go to

Housed in a $6 million contemporary complex, the Charleston Museum is the oldest city museum in the United States. Founded in 1773, it is especially strong in South Carolina decorative arts. The 500,000 items in the collection, in addition to Charleston silver, fashions, toys, and snuff boxes, include objects relating to natural history, archaeology, and ornithology. The museum has an auditorium that can seat up to 288 and two meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 60 each. Receptions for up to 300 can be held in the lobby area. Call (843) 722-2996.