Black Meetings and Tourism

Sep/Oct 2011

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people can drive here. And when times are tough, people might not doDisneyWorld or cruises…butwe have beautiful beaches.We are not as big as Orlando or Miami, but we can keep the price down." Lee says that 30 % of the city is African-American and many resi- dents invite their extended families for reunions. Pensacola also has strong African-American roots, which makes it an educational place for family reunions as well. Much of that history is highlighted through- out the city's African-American Heritage Trail with historical sites such as the home of Daniel "Chappie" James, the first African- American Four-Star General and Johnson Beach, named after Army Private Rosamond Johnson, Jr., the first Black Pensacola native to die in the Korean War. Pensacola also offers jazz, art, and entertainment, with many free festivals year-round. Lee suggests groups try planning their trip in the Spring or Fall when hotel rates are cut by as much as 50%. Not only can the CVB help nego- BY MARY BLEIER D 54 describes the word reunion as, "…a gathering of relatives, friends, or associates at regular intervals or after separation…the act or process of coming together again…"And it seems, that despite our turbu- lent economy, someBlack families and associates are choosing to keep that commitment of coming together "at regular intervals" no matter what. Even when money is tight and expenses are cut,many tend to focus on things that are important in life, such as family andmaintaining friendships,which is why the reunion business is still going strong in places like the Sunshine state. Nestled in the westernmost tip of Florida's panhandle, sits the beautiful beach city of Pensacola. Known for it's sugar-white beaches and home to the BlueAngels, this city is a relaxing backdrop for reunions.Boasting about 350 reunions a year,with 75% of that number being African-American families, Pensa-cola's rich heritage is a big draw for many. "It's a really diverse destination," says Laura Lee, director of Communications for thePensacolaConvention andVisitor'sBureau (CVB).She adds that whatmakes Pensacola so appealing is that even in today's economy, families can still gather without feeling the strain on their budgets. "Pensacola is affordable and tiate better rates for large groups, but also help with the planning process, registration, setting up tours, activities, and transportation. Besides assisting with families, the CVB helps with military reunions as well. Pensacola is an active military hub with impressive history and cel- ebrates the Centennial of Naval avi- ation at the National Naval Aviation Museum in 2011. Heading Northeast, another prime spot for military reunions, is the resort city of Virginia Beach, a picture-perfect playground for groups wanting to enjoy an ocean- front vacation. With three active military bases, the Virginia Beach Aviation Museum and the Veterans Memorial Park, many military reunion groups find this city espe- cially welcoming. "The Military Reunion market is an important meeting sector for Virginia Beach. We are fortunate to be home for many of the military installations," notes Al Hutchinson, vice president Black Meetings & Tourism September/October 2011:

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