Black Meetings and Tourism

Sept/Oct 2012

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ICI •pg_35-42__BMT_pg3-58 12/21/12 4:13 AM Page 36 AFRICAN-AMERICAN G U I D E T O M E E T I N G S , INCENTIVES & TRAVELING IN THE CARIBBEAN W hile U.S. Travel's Brand USA campaign is helping destinations in the States ramp up their marketing to potential visitors from abroad, their island neighbors to the east and south are hoping those travelers don't forget them. Highlighting attractions that preserve and celebrate their African heritage, a number of Caribbean destinations are making a special marketing appeal to African-Americans and others in the Diaspora to come and explore their ancestral connections to these tropical retreats. The invitation is extended to meeting and reunion groups, incentive travelers and vacationers, with the promise of a wide array of amenities to meet their needs and interests. The Caribbean travel industry has increasingly targeted the international meetings market over the last few years, with several destinations upgrading their accommodations for larger gatherings. The tourist boards in each country can help orient meeting planners to legal and logistical issues like customs regulations, taxes, fees and transportation. For instance, you'll need to know the CHOOSING A MEETING SPACE Along with many resort properties and even smaller inns that can accommodate small to midsize meetings, there are some notable Caribbean venues for large groups. Puerto Rico Convention Center, with 580,000 sq. ft. of space, accommodates requirements for shipping conference materials and equipment s to the island. A meeting in the Caribbean may be a tax-deductible expense for U.S. businesses and organizations. Several Caribbean nations have reciprocal agreements with the Internal Revenue Service that allow meeting attendees to deduct some of their expenses. A word about hurricanes: The season for the storms generally lasts from June through the end of November, but the odds of any given destination seeing a direct hit from a major storm are fairly low. Some islands in the southern Caribbean, like Barbados, Curacao and Trinidad & Tobago, rarely have hurricanes at all. In fact, according to the travel information website, Barbados hasn't seen a direct hit from a hurricane since 1955. Nevertheless, when you plan to travel to the region during hurricane season you do accept some risk of having your trip interrupted by the weather. Before you go, be sure to check out the return policies of your airline, hotel and meeting facility. groups of up to 10,000. The Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort & Convention in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic offers 24 meeting rooms and space for up to 5,000, plus amenities like a spa, a casino, a disco and an 18-hole golf course. The Montego Bay Convention Centre, Montego Bay Convention Centre 36 BM&T ••• September/October 2012••• located in Jamaica's second largest city, contains more than 132,000 sq. ft. of function space. The $50 million complex is also conveniently located near some of the city's grandest hotel properties. "The Convention Centre is located along a street we call Elegant Corridor," says general manager Dittie Guise." Along that stretch of road, we have five wonderful, high-end hotels. There is the Iberia Star, the Hilton Rose Hall, the Ritz-Carlton, the Half Moon and Sandals." Guise points to a list of convention center features that include a ballroom of nearly 19,000 sq. ft., just under 11,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and approximately 57,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. There also is about 37,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space available for meetings, receptions and concerts. "A wonderful thing about the Convention Centre is that it overlooks the

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