Black Meetings and Tourism

Jan / Feb 2015

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WHILe many groups choose to meet at large resorts or out of the-way locals, even more seem to be embracing the idea of walking cities. Destinations with compact downtown corridors offer an incredible advantage to meet- ing planners looking to cut costs during challenging times. Smaller walking cities usually have everything your attendees require within walking distance or a short ride away. What a difference it makes to have your hotel across the street from the convention center as opposed to across town! Hosting a meeting in a small to mid-sized walking city can dramat- ically reduce transportation costs to and from events, attractions and special activities. Some larger cities, on the other hand, offer a myriad of experiences with opportunities to explore unique neighborhoods and world-class attractions in an environment perfectly suit- ed for walking. Meetings in these cities, whether large or small, open the door for a better quality of expe- rience for attendees. Instead of becoming hindered by transportation woes, visitors can embark on their own for any multitude of adventures, fully exploring the destination in which they are meeting. Here are a few possibilities for your consideration. B M & T ••• January/February 2015 ••• 19 SAN ANTONIO The San Antonio River Walk is a verdant oasis of cypress- lined paved paths, arched stone bridges and lush landscapes. It gently winds through the city center, providing millions of visi- tors each year with easy access to the city's cultural hot spots, his- toric sites and other attractions. Colorful and iconic umbrellas shade riverside tables as diners savor a splendid array of diverse River Walk cuisine. Classic Tex- Mex, tender barbecue, traditional Italian and contemporary Southwestern fare are just a few of the choices you'll find in the cafés, restaurants and bistros. Just steps from the River Walk is Main Plaza - "the heart of the city." The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is the largest urban ecosys- tem in the nation. Tucked quietly below street level and only steps from the Alamo, it provides a serene and pleasant way to navigate the city. Ride a river cruiser, rent a bicycle or take your time seeing the sights on foot. With 15 miles of sidewalks and paths, the River Walk provides access to museums, the King William Historic District, 300-year-old Spanish missions, hotels, shops, restaurants and a new adventure around every turn. In 2009, a 1.33-mile Riverwalk extension was completed, featuring visual and aural works of art, terraces landscaped with native plants and pedestrian access to the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the historic Pearl Brewery complex. Planners will be happy to hear that the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, the central component of San Antonio's meeting industry, is located right on the famed Riverwalk. The facility hosts more than 300 events each year with over 750,000 convention delegates from around the world. The 1,300,000-sq. ft. state-of-the-art center boasts 203,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, three ballrooms, four contiguous exhibit halls over 440,000 sq. ft. and the adjacent 2,500-seat Lila Cockrell Theatre, a performing arts venue, which is part of the original construction. For more information, contact Visit San Antonio at (866) 517-7771. DETROIT While Detroit may be best known for its automobile industry and for the iconic Motown sound, there's no question that it's prowess as a walking city is on the rise. Under girding this rise as a pedestrian friendly destination is the developing Detroit International Riverfront, a popular tourist attraction that extends from the Ambassador Bridge in the west to Belle Isle in the east, for a total of 5½ miles. The International Riverfront encompass- es a cruise ship passenger terminal and dock, a marina, a multi- tude of parks, restaurants, retail shops, skyscrapers, and high-rise residential areas along with Cobo Convention/Exhibition Center and Joe Louis Arena. The Marriott at the Renaissance Center and the Robert's Riverwalk Hotel, two of the city's major convention hotels, are also situated along the International Riverfront. With 723,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, Cobo Center boasts one of the largest contiguous exhibit floor spaces in North America and is the 19th largest convention center in the country. Elegant San Antonio, downtown BY BUCK SAMUELS

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