Black Meetings and Tourism

Sep/Oct 2011

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Page 28 of 72

BY MICHAEL BENNETT ism has tracked the top 25 African- American conventions by attendance. Six years seems like a lifetime ago. Itwas pre-recession and the global economy was humming along. The stock market was at record levels and access to capital was never easier. Tourismrevenueswere at an all time high. Meeting and conven- tion attendance and corresponding rev- enues were off the charts. Let the good times roll. Hotels expanded capacity and increased room rates in disproportion to the actual rate of growth of the overall economy believing those good times were here to stay. This Consumers were spending money as if they actually owned the banks and the Federal Reserve. Property values rose faster than the Space Shuttle. Several of the more vocal pundits among us predicted long-term sus- tained growth with no end in sight – 28 is the sixth year Black Me e t i n g s and Tour- the euphoria was contagious. When I re-read the article on top African-American conventions I wrote six years ago it was filled with quotes from well respected sources about growth potential of the overall market and how African-American meetings were contributing mightily to that growth. Along comes the summer of 2008 and signs of an economic collapse were imminent, but we continued to ignore the obvious. The damhad cracks,butwe were all drunk on economic prosperity. A few months later the dam burst destroying everything in its path. The market dropped 5,000 points in just a few months –millions lost their jobs. We had officially entered a terrible recession with talks of anotherGreatDepressions. This financial crisis was here. Three years later our economy remains sluggish at best. But as I com- pared what I wrote back in 2006 to the 2011 version,one thing jumped out – the overall attendance ofAfrican-American themedmeetings and conventions is sig- nificantly higher than pre-recession lev- els. I'm not suggesting revenues and profits have returned to 2006 levels as that is beyond the scope of this article, but based on pure number of attendees, we're back in a big way. Attendance at conventions for the top 25 organizations listed on the pages that follow is over 300,000. If we were to consider all group gath- eringswith over 1,000 attendees, that fig- ure easily exceeds a half million, and its safe to assume that we were unable to capture data for all organizations with large turnouts. Keep in mind, for the number of meetings and conventions with over 1,000 attendees – which is allwe tracked here – there aremany times that number of smaller gatherings that could easily result in an exponential increase in total African-American convention atten- dance. That's phenomenal growth given the economic environment we operate in and the high African-American unem- ployment rate. Black Meetings & Tourism September/October 2011:

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