Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: January/February 2018
A VIEW FROM THE TOP: CVB HEADS ANNUAL REPORT ON STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
By: Gloria M. Herbert

As the travel and meetings market responds to world events and an ever-evolving economy, we feel it prudent to pause from time to time to assess what impact all these occurrences are having on our industry.  As we do each year, we put several questions to some of the top CVB heads in the industry in an effort to share their knowledge with those seeking solutions to the daunting challenges faced by many destination reps and planners.  Below are the three questions, followed by their answers in their own words.

  • International travel has been the focus of much heated debate in recent years, and as a result a number restrictions have been placed on international travel.  Will you please reflect on how these restrictions have impacted international travel to your destination?
  • Moving forward, what efforts are you undertaking to attract more international travelers to your destination?
  • With so many options from which travelers can choose, why should a planner or travel agent select your destination to book their meeting, incentive or leisure travel business?
  • What specific outreach efforts are you making to target the African-American market in particular and an ethnically diverse and inclusive market in general?

    KARIN AARON, PRESIDENT/CEO, GREATER NEWARK CVB

    China, the UK and the Canada drive the majority of our international business.  The GNCVB is fortunate to have an international airport where travel remained steady over the last 12 months.  We do monitor travel trends with the airports' authority and is prepared to adjust our marketing efforts when necessary.

    We have established relationships with our international air carriers on joint travel agent/FAM trips and partnerships with our shopping and cultural attractions.  This gives us direct access to the buyer for cross promotion and future promotions to drive visitation.

    Newark is on the rise with record growth in visitor traffic over the last few years.  We are an affordable, accessible alternative when visiting the NYC area so you will save a lot money while visiting the two destinations.  In addition, Newark has a stunning history of arts and cultural attractions that new visitors to Newark can experience.  We know that hotels in Newark are up to 40% cheaper than midtown Manhattan, which ultimately is a huge savings to the meeting planner or booking agent.

    Newark is a strong, urban city with a rich history of ethnic and cultural attractions.  We work with our universities and faith based organizations to showcase African-American history and experiences. We are also working with local historians to craft new walking tours and documented accounts of what the city was like generations ago.

    LARRY ALEXANDER, PRESIDENT/CEO, DETROIT METRO CVB

    While recent restrictions have negatively impacted many destinations around the United States, Michigan and Detroit saw minimal negative impact.  Our area is on the rise and coming off a banner year in 2015 (current numbers are not available) so a small decrease in international travel is still a win in our book.  The accolades and attention that Detroit is getting around the world has generated a lot of recent interest in the destination.  Our strategy will be to stay the course in our international efforts and we have no plans cut back on our involvement in Brand USA and international sales and marketing efforts.

    The Detroit Metro CVB will be attending international tradeshows and embarking on sales/training missions to some of the largest tour operators in the world.  Our goal is to educate the trade on what Detroit has to offer and answer any questions they have about the destination.  As a result, we hope the trend of seeing an increase in the amount of product that is being created for metro Detroit continues.  The Detroit CVB is also actively participating in Brand USA marketing efforts that provide us an outlet to distribute our message on a global platform.

    The city is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, like never before, with new restaurants, retail, entertainment options and hotels on the horizon. Detroit is an affordable, accessible destination and the new Q Line makes it even easier to get around downtown. When you add these to our state-of-the-art convention center, unique meeting venues and world-class attractions, Detroit offers meeting, incentive and leisure travelers a well-rounded, exciting experience that you can't find anywhere else.

    We have a knowledgeable sales staff including a senior national sales manager that is dedicated to targeting diverse and multicultural groups. In 2018 we plan to implement several new strategies, including creating a local president's forum, expanding our current relationship with key diversity and inclusion officers, attending and sponsoring more conferences and events, and enhancing our current exclusive Diversity Education Leadership (DELP) program with ASAE.

    BENNISH BROWN, PRESIDENT/CEO, TRAVEL TACOMA + PIERCE COUNTY

    While Washington D.C. has been debating international travel, Washington State has embraced inclusion, and the welcome mat is still rolled out in Pierce County. Our international visitors have historically gravitated to Tacoma and Mount Rainier, and we haven't seen that impacted in a negative way in recent years. The Pacific Northwest has a well-deserved reputation as a very accepting and welcoming place, and Pierce County is a true Northwest destination.

    Travel Tacoma + Pierce County recently partnered with Brand USA on a series of in-language videos that encouraged travelers from China, South Korea, Germany and the U.K. to visit Mount Rainier National Park. By reaching out in their native languages, we've been able to reach millions of potential visitors from those markets, making sure Tacoma and Pierce County are on their radar.

    We're a Pacific Northwest waterfront destination with convenient transportation, an ideal location, distinctive venues and world-class attractions. The Greater Tacoma Convention Center is just 18 miles south of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and only a few walkable blocks from the waterfront, hotels, restaurants, breweries, shops and six world-class museums.

    Pierce County has regularly hosted groups with primarily African-American attendees, and we've increased our outreach to that community through events like Connect Specialty and our annual Washington DC client event. Just this year we've booked events with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., both for the first time. These groups are looking for a welcoming, friendly experience and top-tier service, and that's something we're honored to provide. Tacoma is a diverse city, and our clientele reflects that.

    RONNIE BURT, PRESIDENT/CEO, VISIT KC

    I think over time we may see some residual, but right now it has been hard to tell.  Our 2016 overall visitation grew to 25 million visitors with $5.5billion in Economic Impact.  While these numbers are healthy, international growth has the largest potential. 

    We have been doing a lot of work in this space over the last few years.  Our great cultural institutions, museums and attractions enormous reach and appeal to the international traveler, which we cannot overlook.  KC recently secured Icelandair, giving Missouri it's first trans-Atlantic route.  When you are a world-class destination you cannot overlook marketing to the international traveler.   It this fits right into our strategy.

    What planners can expect is a great value for the experience.  The central location, the accessibility by car and many renovations of existing hotels and new restaurants, great cultural attractions and culinary lend to a very authentic experience you will only experience in KC.

    This is part of Visit KC's sales and marketing strategy in both the group space and leisure.  The African-American market is part of the fabric interwoven into our messaging, photography, demographic target and group acquisition strategy.  In our next phase you will see more digital and video messaging building on the message.  



    ELLIOTT FERGUSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, DESTINATION DC

    There's no doubt that certain rhetoric coming out of the government is impacting international travel, but it remains to be seen how big the impact will be. The tourism industry is extremely important to the economy and is a job creator in Washington, DC and across the U.S. We rely heavily on the U.S. Travel Association to get that message out to elected officials, as well as Brand USA, which is focused on promoting the U.S. as a whole.

    Overseas visitors are very important to Washington, DC, making up about 9% of our visitation while accounting for 28% of spending. We continue to focus on increasing travel from our top overseas markets, including the biggest one for DC, which is China. We are continuing regular sales missions, marketing through WeChat and social media and growing "Welcome China," which is a program we created for members to help them prepare to welcome Chinese visitors by taking customs and language into account. Direct nonstop flights are an important factor. A new nonstop flight between Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific was announced, which starts September 2018. We're also maximizing a new direct flight on Air India that launched last July by increasing our sales and marketing efforts.

    Washington, DC offers so many free things to do and while the city is often recognized for its monuments, memorials and museums, there's also an incredible Michelin-recognized dining scene, nightlife, theater, parks, shopping, sports and more. Our diverse neighborhoods each have their own feel, like The Wharf, which just opened along the Southwest Waterfront with three new hotels and dozens of restaurants. DC is easy to get to with three nearby airports, and navigate by foot or public transportation. Meeting planners also find numerous special events venues and a world-class convention center.

    As a minority in this country, diversity and representation is important to me personally. We are always looking at including diverse groups in terms of race, age and gender in our advertising creative and commercials, and place advertisements in a range of outlets. We also have sales representatives specifically dedicated to attracting diverse markets and participate in industry associations, such as the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners. Targeting diverse markets are part of our overall goal to bring business and leisure travel of all kinds and sizes to the city.

     

    AL HUTCHINSON, PRESIDENT/CEO, VISIT BALTIMORE

    The international market is an area of growth opportunity for Baltimore, and we are committed to welcoming potential international visitors to our diverse city. We are thrilled to have seen recent growth of international airlift at BWI, making it easier for international visitors to get to Baltimore.

    Visit Baltimore is focused on growing our outreach efforts in the United Kingdom and Canada through targeted efforts to travel and tour operators as well as travel media. We're working with the teams in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia to collectively sell and market the region and are taking part in a number of Brand USA marketing initiatives to grow our reach through their efforts.

    Additionally, we support Maryland Office of Tourism Development's partnership with Capital Region USA to bring international travel writers and tour operators to experience the DC, Maryland and Virginia region.

    Baltimore is the ideal destination for travelers and planners looking for an authentic East Coast waterfront destination that offers a multitude of experiences for visitors. Our "convention campus" embraces the world-famous Inner Harbor, which is surrounded by first-class hotels, highly rated restaurants, exciting attractions and museums, and a variety of shopping options. The city also features the perfect combination of convenience, service and the ability to deliver a strong ROI for meetings and conventions. Accessibility, walkability and affordability are just a fraction of the value equation. Baltimore is also dedicated to preserving its cultural legacies while continuing to grow the tourism industry to reflect the city's rich history and strong cultural roots.  Heritage and culture are laced throughout the city's more than 200 unique neighborhoods. Visitors can see, taste and feel the spirit of the city's diverse culture, from an array of restaurants to shopping, nightlife, art, history and culture.

    Diversity marketing is a major focus of our promotion efforts, but we also know that visitors' travel decisions are informed by a variety of media. Our multicultural message is laced throughout all of our paid advertising campaigns and marketing channels.

    Since 2010, we've welcomed more than 73 multicultural meetings to Baltimore, including the National Urban League in 2016, Alpha Phi Alpha and the NAACP's 2017 annual convention.  Over the next three fiscal years we're excited to welcome more than 25 prestigious diversity meetings and conventions including the National Baptist Convention USA, Congress of Christian Education in June 2019 and Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine, Imperial Session in August 2019 and the National Baptist Convention USA, Congress of Christian Education in June 2019.

    Additionally, Visit Baltimore has a Multicultural Advisory Committee comprised of local business and communities leaders who advise and assist in supporting our efforts to bring diverse conventions to Baltimore. We also participate in various tradeshows and industry events focused on the multicultural market such as the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, Connect Diversity and Connect Specialty.

    We're also committed to building a membership network that represents Baltimore's diverse voice, and to engaging more African American businesses in our hospitality and tourism community. Visit Baltimore piloted a Diversity Membership Program in 2015, which has since welcomed over 50 women- and/or minority-owned businesses to our network, providing valuable marketing and business connections within the tourism space. 

    J. JOHN OROS, JR., PRESIDENT/CEO, GREATER BIRMINGHAM CVB

    International travel is a growing visitor segment that European tour operators and receptive operators are now discovering.  When we pursue international travel, our invited guests should be made to feel welcome. 

    Our tourism department has expanded its marketing pursuits into Germany and the United Kingdom.  With representatives now in Europe, the CVB is addressing both group tours and individual travelers through social media, printed materials and marketplaces in London and Berlin.  We also have continued plans for additional international golf tours through the International Association of Golf Tour Operators.  IAGTO guests tour public courses, including the famed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, for inclusion in their clients' travel itineraries.

    Planners invariably are impressed with the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex campus, with meeting and exhibition space under the same roof with an 18,000-seat arena and two theatres.  A 45,000-seat stadium also is planned for the campus.  Leisure travel planners find a booming culinary scene in Birmingham, with nationally acclaimed chefs and restaurants.  New attractions, such as Topgolf, add to the city's appeal.

    Birmingham's rich history in America's Civil Rights Movement is a draw not only for African-American visitors but for visitors of all ethnicities.  Birmingham was Ground Zero for the movement in 1963, when events here led to the passage of the National Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Birmingham campaign now unfolds in the new U.S. Civil Rights Trail website ((u)www.civilrightstrail.com(eu)).  In one of his last acts as president, Barack Obama named Birmingham's Civil Rights District a national monument. 

    KITTY RATCLIFFE, PRESIDENT/CEO, EXPLORE ST. LOUIS

    St. Louis is fortunate that our top international markets have not been impacted in recent years to any travel restrictions for international visitors.  Our leading international markets, Canada, China, Mexico and the United Kingdom, have continued to produce strong numbers for us.

    St. Louis is excited to be hosting Travel South International Showcase in 2019.  This will provide us the opportunity to showcase St. Louis to international journalists, tour operators and US receptive tour operators.  And in the spring of 2018, WOW Airlines will start new non-stop service to St. Luis from Reykjav√≠k, Iceland, with connections to many European cities, so we're looking forward to expanding our travelers from those markets.

    St. Louis is sophisticated, yet an affordable destination for any traveler.  Our region offers a variety of world-class attractions, exhibits and cuisine, all wrapped in a friendly, diverse atmosphere.  St. Louis has a long list of must see attractions for international visitors, including the iconic Gateway Arch, National Blues Museum, world-famous barbeque establishments, Opera Theatre St. Louis and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (both with international followings), as well as a being key stop on the historic Route 66 that plays an important role in American lore.  

    St. Louis is a multi-cultural destination, which celebrates the numerous races and nationalities that help create the diverse cultural landscape of our community.  Explore St. Louis actively markets to African American visitors during the key travel seasons to make them aware of the attractions, venues and must see events.

    Additionally, we are proud to host many conventions of primarily African American delegates, like the National Urban League in 2017, Church of God in Christ in multiple years, National Baptist Convention, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the recently announced AEAONMS Annual Convention in 2022.

    WANDA COLLIER WILSON, PRESIDENT/CEO, VISIT JACKSON

    To date our visitor tracking methods have not indicated a decrease in international travel.  Jackson has not been directly impacted by the restrictions. We continue to receive international travelers and welcome them with our own brand of Southern Hospitality.

    We have made a conscious effort to work with the international contacts through our state division of tourism office to engage the international market.  We recently hosted 22 European Journalists for the opening of 2 new state-of-the-art museums:  the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History.  The journalists were exposed to Jackson's inherent rich offering to the Civil Rights Movement, other museums, wonderful food, properties and the music that makes us the "City with Soul".

    A planner should chose Jackson because it's centrally located for its attendees, it's more affordable than our neighboring destinations, it's full of rich culture, a deep history, unmatched hospitality, music and food galore.  A planner could plan a day-trip to explore other areas of interest, but we feel confident that there will be too much to explore right here in our city.  A few ideas include exploring the 13 Mississippi Blues Trail Markers, or the Civil Rights Driving Tour, see signature backdrops to movies like, "The Help" or "Get on Up", and the 29 attractions and museums are certainly enough to keep the interest of all of your attendees.  

    Specific outreach efforts continue through direct contact with identified planners, such as the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, and attending select tradeshows to promote meetings and visiting Jackson. We also participate periodically in special issues of pertinent print publications that offer the propensity for mass exposure.  We have a strong rapport with the Pan-Hellenic Council locally, regionally and on a nationwide basis.  We are also proactively seeking niche groups that have a strong interest in Civil Rights to connect them with the remarkable museums here in our city that tell our story.

    JIM WOOD, PRESIDENT/CEO, MEET AC

    • Easily accessible from all major airports
      Detailed and creative itineraries
      Participate in trade shows
      Advertising Campaigns
      Contests
      Assistance of an International office
      Cooperative marketing with partners and other DMO's

    Based on all the amenities that Atlantic City has to offer, incentive meetings are attracting more attention. Surplus of unique meeting space, headline entertainment, a foodie's delight and tax-free shopping. Atlantic City is located within a few hours' drive of nearly one-third of the nation's population, which plays a big role in attracting these type of meetings.

    Attending large and small African- American conferences; Diversity Marketplace, PCMA and NCBMP events. Using client testimonials, focusing on (4) African- American FAM's targeted to the African American Market. We offer incentives to attract new business to Atlantic City

    ERNEST WOODEN, PRESIDENT/CEO, LOS ANGELES TOURISM & CONVENTION BOARD

    While we recognize and support the need for safe and secure travel, there has never been a more important time to let our visitors from around the world know that we welcome them, we value them and that Los Angeles, in particular, will continue to roll out the red carpet for them. As Los Angeles is one of the most welcoming, diverse and inclusive destinations in the world, international visitation in 2017 grew 0.9% to a record. 7.1 million visitors outperforming both its projected forecast and inbound travel to the United States as a whole in 2017. We are now celebrating our seventh year of record-breaking tourism in L.A. and will continue to rally behind the message that "Everyone is Welcome" in Los Angeles.

    In April 2017, Los Angeles Tourism launched an initiative called 'Everyone is Welcome', which reinforced the city's cultural diversity and inclusivity. It was the right message at the right time; it was a message of humanity while encouraging people around the globe to see the diversity of L.A.'s faces and places. Moving forward, we will extend and amplify our message of 'welcome' and intertwine a message of hospitality to truly emphasize Los Angeles embraces travelers from everywhere and all walks of life.

    Interest and desire for meeting in Los Angeles is at an all-time high, a fact largely attributable to our city's unrivaled intellectual capital, incredible mix of 'only-in-L.A.' experiences and venues, and endless sunshine. Fantastic new hotels are opening their doors with frequency, diverse chefs are exploring creative territories, and noteworthy cultural institutions are choosing to call L.A. home. A truly irresistible magnet for collaboration, Los Angeles is the perfect destination right now for meeting professionals to connect individually and innovate collectively.

    Diversity is a natural asset of ours in Los Angeles as we continue to remain laser-focused on growing our affinity markets, whether it's the African-American segment, LGBTQ, and beyond. For the African-American market in particular, which we value enormously, our robust marketing effort engage several consumer platforms including a dedicated microsite (discoverlosangeles.com/africanamericanla) with up-to-date content; regularly promoting cultural guides, events and neighborhoods of interest, as well as securing important conventions and mega events such as the BET Experience & Awards held at L.A. LIVE.

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