Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: September/October 2017
African-American Reunions Mean Big Bucks for Savvy Marketers
By: Rufus McKinney 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 turbulent economy, many Black families continue to come together at regular intervals no matter what. Even when money is tight and expenses are cut, they tend to focus on things that are important in life, such as family and maintaining friendships.

            Family reunions are a time-honored tradition in the African-American community dating back 150 years.  These multi-generational family gatherings are arguably the largest sector of the African-American travel and tourism market. 

The birth of African-American family reunions can be traced back to Emancipation.  Former slaves began the search for distant family members, by placing ads in newspapers or simply asking those who toiled on nearby plantations.  For those able to reconnect, the reunions were glorious celebratory affairs.  Several studies suggest that 90 percent of all family reunions are held by African-Americans.

Organizing a family reunion, even for a seasoned professional planner, can be a daunting task.  The good news is that most, if not all convention and visitor's bureaus across the nation, will provide you with resources, knowledgeable staffers and support services to help you plan a seamless family reunion that will leave your clients and family members smiling. 

For example, the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB offers the following "Tips for a successful reunion:"

  1. Begin planning 18-24 months ahead.
  2. Designate a lead person who can delegate duties -- with a timetable -- to get others to commit to the event.
  3. Make plans appealing to adults and kids, but be imaginative and flexible based on weather, size of group and time constraints.
  4. Include an oral history project, which can be a great way to spark conversations across generations and cultural backgrounds, preserve history, and bring relatives closer together.

From all the feedback BM&T gets, this segment of the market tends to be almost recession proof and continues to thrive, despite the financial challenges many are facing.  We checked with some representatives from some popular family reunion cities where this rings true.


No matter what size family reunion you are planning, Baltimore is the perfect location to celebrate. And Visit Baltimore's family reunion planning ideas provide you with the inspiration to start planning your family reunion in Baltimore. In addition, their dedicated and knowledgeable reunion planning staff can help with hotel leads and tour planning. They'll help you discover all the fun, excitement, and exceptional entertainment you want during your family reunion in Baltimore.

Among the free Baltimore reunion planning resources you will find an array of brochures, guides and maps available that incudes information on group dining options, unique party and reception sites, accommodations and much more.  Just request a packet from Visit Baltimore - it's that simple.  You can also download a family reunion planner and budget worksheet from Visit Baltimore's website.

No family reunion in Baltimore would be complete with experiencing Inner Harbor. Baltimore's Inner Harbor has many stories to tell, from its heyday in the 18th century as the nation's leading shipbuilding site, to a major site for oyster canning, steel working, railroad building, immigration port and military supply center. In 1980, the Inner Harbor area underwent a major revitalization with the addition of many attractions, hotels, restaurants and shops. Today, the Inner Harbor is a major tourist destination and port of call for cruise ships.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, a major Inner Harbor tourist destination, highlights the history and accomplishments of Maryland's African-American community, featuring exhibitions, resource centers, a cafe and a gift shop.  In nearby Oliver, the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum, America's first wax museum of African-American history and culture, features more than 150 life-size and lifelike wax figures.

For more information contact Visit Baltimore at (877) BALTIMORE or (u)

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With plenty of opportunities to explore the history, culture, music, and food, Baton Rouge offers family reunions the perfect setting for fun and play. Family members will find Baton Rouge is the perfect place to experience great music, attractions, adventures and activities. From the distinct tastes of the local cuisine to the soulful sounds of blues, gospel, Cajun & Zydeco, Baton Rouge celebrates life to the fullest. You can choose from an array of unique attractions guaranteed to please every age group and interest.

            For example, the whole family is sure to enjoy Audubon of the Americas, which immerses you in an underwater world. The colors of a Caribbean reef come alive in their walk-through tunnel, while penguins and Southern sea otters enchant you with their antics. Touch a stingray, feed a parakeet, and marvel at gigantic sharks, tarpon, and rays in the 400,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico Exhibit.

On the other hand, the 13th Gate is the Ultimate Haunted House, and definitely for the more adventurous family members. Journey through 13 very frightening themed indoor and outdoor areas where your worst nightmares come true and anything can happen. From crawling though a crematory oven and an old hearse to being lost in dark underground tunnels or even finding yourself standing on a rickety bridge overlooking hundreds of live snakes, this 40,000 sq. ft. haunted house is definitely not recommended for the faint of heart!

Other possibilities include Baton Rouge Raceway, Baton Rouge Zoo, Bell of Baton Rouge Casino, Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, Laser Tag of Baton Rouge, and Liberty Lagoon water park. For history and culture buffs, the Odell S. Williams Now and Then Museum of African-American History showcases faces of African-American contributors in various fields, rural artifacts, African Art, and minority inventions that impact our day-to-day activities, while the River Road African American Museum is touted as the premier facility in the South to focus on the history and heritage of African-Americans along the Mississippi River.

Reunion attendees will experience southern hospitality at its finest with the many options they will have to choose from when it comes to hotel accommodations in Baton Rouge. The Hampton Inn & Suites Baton Rouge Downtown offers 137-rooms and is within walking distance to local attractions, businesses, the State Capitol, and just a short drive to Louisiana State University and Southern University.  Also located downtown, the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center hotel is less than five minutes to the Louisiana State Capitol and three miles from Louisiana State University. The hotel is equipped with 290 rooms and ample of meeting space.

For more information contact Visit Baton Rouge at 800 LA ROUGE | 225-383-1825 or (u)

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The Central Broward corridor of Broward County has emerged as an international crossroads of African-American, Caribbean and Hispanic cultures. The recently-renovated Westfield Mall, in the heart of Greater Fort Lauderdale, has become the meeting place for affordable family-friendly vacation fun.  An array of artistic and cultural activities presented around the theme, "Where Community Celebrates Culture," capitalizes on the richness of heritages in the African Diaspora and the homelands of Caribbean and Hispanic residents and makes the mall a place where many can feel at home.

What better place to connect with relatives, friends, schoolmates and cultural roots than an area accessible from major US cities and a gateway to the Caribbean? Reunion planners can choose from a variety of beachfront, boutique, and suburban hotels in an urban experience that offers relaxation and multigenerational fun. Broward County Parks offer pavilions, water slides, boat rentals, picnic areas and even a cricket field at Central Broward Regional Park to meet your family's needs.

If its Black history and culture your reunion participants crave, Fort Lauderdale has more than its share. The African American Research Library and Cultural Center, the Old Dillard Museum and the Ashanti Cultural Arts Center are three notable Black heritage attractions that should not be missed. The long awaited ATA Tennis and Education Complex will soon become another cultural anchor in the development of the destination when it comes on line in the not too distant future.

Other family friendly attractions include the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Everglades Holliday Park/Airboat Tours, Fort Lauderdale Riverfront Cruises, Xtreme Actions Park and CB Smith (water) Park.

For more information contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB, Albert Tucker, VP, multicultural business development at (954) 767-2456 or (u)

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With so many free and almost free national monuments, museums and attractions, Washington, DC is an exceptionally appealing destination for family reunions, particularly the African-American segment. On of DC's newest attractions, the National Museum of African American History and Culture along the National Mall, which opened in 2016, must be on your family reunion itinerary.  The stunning new building, which prominently sits between The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, houses more than 37,000 artifacts including Nat Turner's Bible; Emmet Till's original casket; Harriet Tubman's shawl; and a vintage open-cockpit biplane used to train Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

Some reunions are the size of small meetings and some come through professional meeting planners, with the sales and convention services teams providing support (maps, visitors guides, hotel and restaurant suggestions, guides for requesting permits for picnics on the National Mall, etc.).

Most family reunions take place March through October, when the weather is warmer, with the majority taking place when school is out.

As for the accommodations, activities, attractions and venues, this is where DC shines. With over 30 free national museums, including the National Zoo and 15 other Smithsonian Institution museums, there are myriad choices. The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall and historic Howard Theatre, home to a stellar gospel brunch on Sundays are popular with reunion attendees. Large new restaurants like the 800+ seat Hamilton and their supper club Hamilton Live have been wonderful for small meetings and family reunions. The Hamilton is two blocks from the White House.

For families planning to come to DC for a family reunion without the support of a professional meeting planner, they can request materials at: (u)

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Orlando offers a world of possibilities for unique one-of-a-kind family reunions. Theme parks, beautiful weather, great golf, nightlife and relaxation are the hallmarks of this central Florida paradise.  From low-cost accessibility and wide variety of hotels to world-class entertainment and unforgettable experiences, Orlando is an exciting gateway city for reunions of all sizes. With 119,000 guest rooms and in more than 450 hotels and resorts across the destination ranging from budget-priced and mid-scale brands to luxury resorts with all of the amenities, family reunion planners and attendees alike have plenty of options to choose from.

Family reunion participants will surely want to visit Orlando's world-famous attractions, including SeaWorld Parks, Universal Orlando® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort.  Walt Disney World Resort recently transformed Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, doubling the number of shops, restaurants and other venues.  At Disney's Epcot Center, you can gather with family and friends to celebrate the fascinating cultures and numerous wonders of the world around you through dazzling shows, interactive experiences and amazing attractions. At Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park family members can journey off the beaten path and create exciting events in exotic surroundings with adventurous endeavors - a unique experience that will fascinate and excite your reunion participants.  The world of "make-believe" comes alive in the Magic Kingdom® Park, where new adventures, fantasy, and fun surround your reunion attendees in seven wondrous lands of enchantment.

 Walt Disney World has multiple properties and event venues throughout its theme park that are ideal for family reunion activities.  Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to name a few.

The incredible Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is the perfect spot to catch jazz concerts, Broadway theater and other shows depending on when your reunion will be in town. With two theaters, a public performance space and educational facilities, it will be a unique venue for reunion planners and family members who want to use specific rooms, public spaces and theaters for special events.

For more information contact Visit Orlando at (800) 972-3304 | (407) 363-5872 or (u)