Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel


One of the most significant trends we are seeing is the increase in short-term bookings. Meeting planners are making the decision on where to meet closer to the actual date of the event. This is changing the way we, and all other bureaus, market and compete for short-term business.

We are managing our inventory to compete more aggressively in the marketplace.  Whether it is short-term or long-lead business, we adjust our pitch to showcase LA product that will fit any meeting planner’s needs.

We are in the midst of an exciting growth spurt in regards to new LA product for meeting planners and visitors.  The first phase of the L.A. LIVE entertainment district opened in October 2007 with the debut of NOKIA Theatre. Next October, phase two opens with a variety of dining experiences, a Lucky Strike bowling alley and a Grammy Museum.  Then in early 2010, the new convention center hotels, Ritz Carlton and J.W. Marriott open.

In February, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) opens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the first phase of the Chinese Gardens at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens debuts.

In May 2008, Universal Studios Hollywood kicks off the new Simpsons ride attraction based on the popular TV show and movie.

The city of Los Angeles has an advantage that no other city or region on the face of the planet has, including the Caribbean. Los Angeles has such a rich and diverse array of cultures. Our organization has leveraged this with great success and it has resulted in strong sales and marketing, including to African-American groups and business.


The continuous and constantly changing impact of technology.

Technological advancements in the meeting and convention industry continue to develop at warp speed. Convention centers and hotels all over the world are constantly trying to stay current with the ever-changing technological needs of their customers. Ten years ago wireless internet access, satellite teleconferencing, interactive websites, web based meeting planning tools, marketing, and registration/housing programs were all "Star Wars" concepts. Now they are the norm, and a competitive necessity.    

From a destination marketing organization perspective, many CVBs are adding highly skilled, highly salaried, staff positions that specialize in website design and Internet marketing. Convention centers and hotels are also continuously investing in expensive technology to stay competitive. Amenities such as Hi-Def televisions, wireless Internet, and in-room I-pods with docking stations are very expensive.      

The National Civil Rights Museum will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. King with activities scheduled throughout 2008. In addition to a special slate of activities being planned for the week of April 4th, the museum continues to bring stories of civil and human rights to life in moving fashion. Interpretive exhibits and in-depth audio/visual displays focus on milestone events like the Montgomery bus boycott, the Memphis sanitation strike and much more. A block away from the Westin, this down-home restaurant and juke joint co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman is the newest addition to the Beale Street Entertainment district. Featuring weekly performances by local, regional and national blues acts, as well as plate lunches, catfish, sandwiches and a full service bar, Ground Zero Blues Club is the one of the hottest spots in Memphis.

Steeped in tradition and history, Memphis’ rich African-American heritage and culture has made an indelible imprint on the city’s past and present. Not only is the city alive with growth and development, Memphis’ convenient location, progressive attitude, and high standard for hospitality and service excellence make it the place to be.

With a state-of-the-art convention facility located in the heart of downtown partnered with first-class guest accommodations, unrivaled attractions, world-class performing arts, multi-cultural festivals/events and excellent restaurants, Memphis is an impressive overall convention package.


Attendees are increasingly combining business trips with personal time and bringing families along for the journey.

The multicultural market continues to recognize that Norfolk provides an exciting, affordable, accessible destination that is appealing to both professionals and families.  We have many choices for recreation and shopping that we are quick to promote, in addition to the ease in planning a meeting near all of these free time choices.

Norfolk continues it downtown renewal efforts with the newly opened Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, a state-of-the-art cruise facility that is also an ideal venue for pre- and post-meeting events as well as special functions. Plans for four new hotels that will bring 700 additional hotel rooms to the downtown area were recently announced, including two developments that have minority ownership.

The multicultural market has been and remains a critical component of Norfolk's sales and marketing efforts.  While other destinations may have lessened their activity, Norfolk has demonstrated its commitment by consistently dedicating resources to telling its story to the multicultural convention and leisure market segments. We are in the process of developing a video sales piece that was supported by the city with special funding.  And, as home to two of the largest HBC institutions in the nation, Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region is rich in cultural history.


One of the prominent trends I see developing in the meetings industry is a shorter booking window.  Large meetings are not committing as early or easily to future meeting dates.   Additionally, the presence of four generations in our workforce for the first time ever has had an incredible impact on the pace of our technological advances in delivering information and product.

Four separate generational cultures have different values and means of communication so we try to be even more transparent and inclusive in everything we do. Every individual is more empowered than was the case in the ‘90s. We can work in 24 to 36 hour turnarounds on all client inquiries, large or small.  We have hired staff specifically to handle smaller associations that are booking short-term. The new generation is exciting to work with, I believe they practice the best attributes acquired from the previous three!

Our new $600 million convention center opens with 900,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in late 2008.  It was designed for “green meetings” and to attain an LEED accreditation. Even their menus feature sustainable, environmental-friendly ingredients. In fall of 2008, the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown opens just a block away from the new Phoenix Convention Center. The hotel will feature 1,003 rooms and 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Add to that a $1.4 billion 20-mile METRO light-rail system opening in December 2008.  These enhancements set the stage for Greater Phoenix to play the proud host to such mega events as Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008; the NBA 2009 All-Star Game and hopefully, your next convention or vacation.

We have special rates for summer groups along with the attractive rates all visitors enjoy in our hotels and resorts as well as a diverse staff and an aware convention center operation that “gets it” year-round. Our airport is only four miles from downtown and is served by more non-stop, low-fare routes than any city in the US or the Caribbean islands. Not changing planes to get to a low fare destination of immense international appeal, 10 minutes from the airport, allows a person more quality time with those they need to see…cost effectively.


As gas prices rise and airport security becomes more time consuming, we believe that planners are looking for exceptional meeting space closer to their locations. Also with inflations, budgets are more restricted.  Cities like “Greater Reading” are short distances from major cities and offer many of the same quality meeting amenities at a greater value.  Plus, you don’t spend a day flying to an area, just two hours in a car.

We really have focused the way we go after the market through tradeshows and advertising.

Greater Reading is so fortunate.  It is undergoing a major revitalization effort led by business and community leaders and volunteers.  We will have two new hotels in Spring 2009.  One residing directly across from our civic center.  We also recently opened the Greater Reading Expo Center, which has 250,000 sq. ft. of space for shows, meetings, etc.  An IMAX Cinema will open in the City in June that boasts 12 theaters, with new retail and restaurants across the street from it.


One of the biggest issues we face is that the U.S. is losing market share of the Global Tourism Market.  Over the years, international travel has changed dramatically with increased access, relaxed travel restrictions and the emergence of new destinations, yet the U.S. market share of outbound European travel is down.  TIA (Travel Industry Association) reports that negative U.S. perceptions combined with security issues are to blame.  We need to come together as an industry and call for travel reforms as well as the launch of more international marketing on behalf of the U.S.

With increased funding for CTTC (California Travel and Tourism Commission) and their development of targeted international sales and marketing efforts, we’re reinvesting in the international market and partnering with CTTC in key countries through a variety of programs.

New hotel properties include downtown’s Hard Rock Hotel San Diego and the luxurious Grand Del Mar Resort & Spa in San Diego’s North County.  Carnival Cruise Line is now San Diego’s first-ever year-round homeport cruise line, offering weekly excursions to neighboring Mexico.  And, the 2008 U.S. Open is being played June 12-15 on the spectacular Torrey Pines Golf Course overlooking the Pacific Ocean; this is the first U.S. Open in Southern California since 1948.

For years, our Bureau has had a dedicated national sales director on staff responsible for the African-American meetings market.  Belinda Thompson, who is based in our Washington DC remote office, is supported by direct sales and marketing programs designed to give African-American meeting planners and attendees the finest experience possible in our region. As our funding expands in the future, so will our investment in this important market segment.


Inquiries about our area from meeting planners have doubled this year.  Our strategic location — just 25 minutes south of Philadelphia and midway between New York City and Washington, DC — has put us on their radar screen.  Most of our hotels have been renovated within the past two years and it’s easier for meeting planners to book space in the Greater Wilmington Area than in some of the larger cities that surround us.

We are aggressively targeting Association, SMERF and Sports Markets because they work well for our area and are also catering to the needs of smaller ‘groups’ requesting less than the traditional 10 or more rooms.  Planners want cost effective ways and unique alternatives to generate attendee participation.  We are uniquely positioned to give them an immediate ROI because there is no sales tax in Wilmington on meeting room rentals, food and beverage.  This tax-free component is also an enticing lure to the attendees themselves when they realize the savings they will experience here.

Our area offers world-class museums and gardens, a revitalized Riverfront, a wide selection of performing arts, charming wineries, historic towns that retain their 17th- and 18th-century ambience and a selection of top-notch restaurants and hotels.

Our director of Meeting Sales, Esther Lovlie, CMP is very proactive about servicing the conventions, both before and when they arrive in our city.  We are offering to set up information booths next to their registration tables, staff, PR, etc.  We know that it is imperative to provide a full service, positive experience, which will generate future meetings and visits to our area.