Black Meetings and Tourism

July/August 2014

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B M & T ••• July/August 2014 ••• 24 hotel developers to build and manage the property. Back in the 1990s, R. Donahue Peebles made history through a public/private partnership on Miami Beach to develop the Royal Crowne Plaza Resort, which he later sold for a tidy profit in the millions of dollars. Third, Haithcox says, "cities and CVBs should openly inform people they are doing outreach to the Black community" using any and all means at their disposal, whether it be through public forums, the media or other forms of local outreach. The good will alone will pay tremendous dividends, but some are just too afraid to promote their efforts. Why, we have no clue. And finally, more African-American organizations should do what Haithcox and the NPA have done. They have named this publication, Black Meetings and Tourism (BM&T) magazine as the official tourism guide to the National Policy Alliance. What's that mean? For organizations the NPA represents, in order to be considered as a host destination for a conference or other group gath- ering, NPA wants to make sure the local CVB and others benefiting from their organizations' attendance do business with BM&T. And for those who remember Haithcox from her days at the NAACP, she is not afraid to ask the question or enforce the mandate. Elected officials have had a direct impact on BM&T. A few years back Solomon J. Herbert and his wife Gloria Herbert, publisher of BM&T attended a reception in Los Angeles, the maga- zine's home base. In attendance was Los Angeles city coun- cilman Bernard Parks who asked the Herbert's if Los Angeles was supporting BM&T. The answer, much to Parks' cha- grin was no. Councilman Parks took the extraor- dinary step of setting up a meeting in his office with the CVB and the Los Angeles Convention Center. The result, both started advertising in BM&T. While those advertising efforts weren't sus- tained over the long haul, that all changed when Ernest Wooden, one of only 11 African- Americans to head a CVB, came on board as president/CEO in January of 2013. Wooden has made a concerted outreach effort to the African-American and multicul- tural market segments, and the Bureau now makes sure invitations are extended to BM&T for various indus- try functions they host. BM&T has begun working closely with the CVB to increase business opportunities. Need another example of the power of a local official. Back in the early part of the last decade, BM&T organized the Global Travel Pavilion at the Congressional Black Caucus annual gathering. The president of the Atlantic City, NJ city council approached the Herbert's about advertising opportunities in their magazine. The council president made it clear that Atlantic City was seeking the African- American market and couched it as a top priority. The Herbert's informed the council president they had left multiple phone messages and sent proposals to the local CVB, but said the bureau never expressed an interest in the publication on the African-American market segment. Upon receiving this information, the council president returned to Atlantic City and ripped into the CVB during a council meeting. The Bureau made an advertising buy almost immediately, but this too was short lived with the changing of the guard when new officials were elected to the City Council. It saddens me that a town that's been predomi- nantly African-American for decades and the place of my birth would ignore the Black community, but unfortunately this is all too common an occurrence. But the tide just might be turning after all these years. Destinations are beginning to recognize our value outside traditional African-American hotspots like Atlanta, New Orleans and Philadelphia. Just last month the Minister of Tourism for The Bahamas, the Honorable Obie Wilchombe appointed Linville Johnson as director of the African-American market. This new appointment is part of the Ministry of Tourism's new mar- keting strategy and commitment to increasing its support and visibility in the African-American market. According to Johnson, the African- American market generates billions in revenues on an annual basis. "The Bahamas has always enjoyed a fantastic relationship with African-Americans. Our geographical location as the first country outside" those that border "the United States of America, our easy-access, affordability, pre-American customs and immigration clearance coupled with our shared affinity of heritage tourism and cul- ture makes us the ideal destination for African-Americans." As the United States rapidly becomes a majority minority country, destinations will be forced to do more to share the wealth. The first step is education of elected officials. After nearly two decades in the business, I'm continually amazed at how few American politicians get the value of hospitality to their local communities and even worse, how little of the economic benefit reaches the Black community. Photo Credit: Mandy Godbehear BERNARD PARKS Linville Johnson

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