Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

NATCHEZ, MS

Largest meeting venue: Natchez Convention Center Complex 23,000 sq. ft. of function space on the first floor, 6,670 sq. ft. on the second floor

Number of area guestrooms: 1,297

"Natchez has been so fortunate to host thousands of visitors throughout the year for over three quarters of a century that area hoteliers, restaurateurs, and retailers have been positioned to keep their rates economically reasonable over the course of time," says Sally B. Durkin, media liaison for the Natchez Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Even Natchez restaurants with high-end entrees are still less costly than comparable meals in other tourism destination markets, and new hotels that have come online very recently offer very affordable rack rates, even on weekends."

Durkin says local hotel properties and attractions are providing a number of incentives to draw business in the face of the current economic downturn. She adds: "The incentives are quite strong because the various properties fully understand the value of having fewer dimes [as opposed to] no dimes at all." She also points to creative efforts to provide value-added services for visitors. "An example of this would be having horse-drawn carriages transport conferees between hotels and meeting facilities as opposed to vans or buses, or having a jazz or blues ensemble providing live entertainment in the meeting facility pre-function area during a break," Durkin says.

Convention services offered by the bureau include site inspections, distribution of bid proposals to hotels and meeting venues, and visitor's guides and other attendance-promoting materials.

A must-see attraction for visitors to Natchez is the NAPAC Museum, which is operated by the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture in the old Main Street post office. Two other notable Black heritage sites include Melrose, a 133-acre estate built by slaves and free men, and the William Johnson House, home of a prominent local Black businessman who was both a former slave and a slave owner. Both sites are part of Natchez National Park. At the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, where admission is free, visitors can view three ceremonial mounds, explore a nature trail and shop for Native American crafts.

For more information call (800) 647-6724.

NORFOLK, VA

Largest meeting venue: Norfolk Scope Arena - 85,000 sq. ft.

Number of area guestrooms: 5200

"Norfolk is an incredibly affordable, walkable city with a variety of amenities, says Donna Allen, vice president of sales & marketing for the Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Norfolk is the heart of the Virginia waterfront area. In addition to seeing all that Norfolk offers, our guests are within an hour's drive of a variety of regional experiences."

Hampton Roads Transit has routes throughout Norfolk, with connections to Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Hampton, Newport News and Suffolk. It also operates the free Norfolk Electric Transit shuttle bus service in downtown Norfolk. In 2010, the Tide light rail will make its debut.

Home to the nation's largest navy base, Norfolk has a number of attractions connected to its maritime heritage, along with some notable sites that showcase the region's Black history and culture. The historic Attucks Theatre, once called "the Apollo of the South," now houses an African-American cultural center. The West Point Monument in Elmwood Cemetery is dedicated to African-Americans who fought in the Civil and Spanish-American wars.

America's largest battleship, the USS Wisconsin, is docked right next to Nauticus, the hands-on maritime museum that is one of the city's most popular attractions. Other places of interest include the Moses Myers House, Virginia Zoological Park and the Chrysler Museum of Art.

The CVB's current "Sail Into Savings" promotion provides credits of up to $10,000 (depending the number of peak rooms) on meetings booked in 2009 and held through March 2010. Meetings held later in 2010 can receive smaller credits.

Convention services include help with vendor contacts, site inspections, promotional materials and event planning. The CVB provides housing assistance for groups using two or more hotels and minimum of 400 rooms on peak night, with a small fee per reservation.

Planners can also take advantage of the Norfolk's convenient Waterside Convention Connection. The Alliance, which includes the Waterside Convention Center, the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel, the Radisson Hotel Norfolk, the Waterside Festival Marketplace and the 85,000-sq. ft. Norfork Scope arena, facilitates access to a combined 216,000 sq. ft. of convention space.

For more information call (800) 368-3097.


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