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

There's an old saying that the "more things change, the more they stay the same."  This is especially true in the meetings/travel/hospitality industry.   Below is a reprint of my Publisher's Message that ran in the March/April 2017 issue of Black Meetings & Tourism.   It is just as relevant today, if not more relevant, than when I wrote it five years ago.   What do you think?

"In the 1960s I was heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement as second vice chair of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) under our leader at the time, the legendary James Farmer.  I later went on the become chairman of Bronx CORE, following in the footsteps of the chapter's first chairman, Herb Calendar, who was an original Freedom Rider.

I share this with you so you'll understand why more often than not I am stirring the pot and unwilling to tolerate the status quo when it comes to opportunities for wealth building and empowerment in our African-American community.  By us pushing the envelope and not settling for things as usual, we served as catalysts for change.   Our efforts moved our community, and our country, in the right direction.   We won many battles, though certainly not all of them.   And while we accomplished much, in 2017 few can argue that we don't still have a long way to go.

That being said, this Publisher's Message is directed mainly at our meeting, incentive and event planner audience.  I'm the first to admit that the days when overt racism was rampant are thankfully behind us for the most part.   But unless you have been wearing blinders, it's hard for you to deny that we continue to experience and live with the vestiges of Jim Crow, which are evident wherever you look in this industry.   Why are there only 10 African-Americans heading any of the more than 500 convention & visitors bureaus across the nation?   Why are there less than 100 African-American general managers running hotels in the US when there are over 50,000 properties?   In either case, it's definitely not because there are no qualified industry professionals to fill those positions.   We all know better!   In fact BM&T regularly runs feature articles in our magazine presenting an array of outstanding and highly qualified individuals who are more than competent to fill this void.   Most of the current Black CVB presidents, like Elliott Ferguson, Ronnie Burt, Al Hutchinson and Wanda Collier Wilson, were featured time and time again in Black Meetings & Tourism's "Who Will be the Next Black CVB President/CEO?"

Just as alarming as our paltry numbers at the executive level in this industry, is the reality that less than 1% of the nearly $60 billion generated annually by the African-American travel/meetings market segment is spent with African-American-owned businesses.  This is unacceptable!   The good news is that you are in a position to change this picture.   The various destinations, hotels and venues into which you book your meetings and events want your business.   Consequently, you can leverage the dollars you spend by demanding certain things.   When you enter a hotel on a site visit or to check in while attending a conference, and you don't see anyone who looks like you, there are certain things you can and should do.   At the very least, fill out a guest comment card and point out the problem.   If you are contemplating using the venue for your meeting or event, make it clear to hotel reps you are working with that you are concerned about staff and vendor diversity at the property and will withhold doing business with the hotel until it is corrected.

You can use this same approach when considering which destinations to select for your meetings and events.  No CVB wants to lose business for their city over diversity issues.   But if you never say anything, and only consider the rates and dates, and the gift basket left in your suite, nothing will ever change.   The ball is on your court!   You can either stand up an represent the African-American market segment with pride and dignity, or you can go along to get along, and leave things they way that they are!"

Solomon J. Herbert