Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: April/May 2009
Who Will Be the Next Black CVB President/CEO?
By: Solomon J. Herbert

Each year we take a close look at convention & visitors bureau across the nation in our continuing effort to document the rate of progress that African-Americans are making in the hospitality/travel industry. While we cannot report any substantial progress in the upward mobility of African-Americans since we examined the ranks of CVBs in 2008, there are several changes worth noting. A couple of familiar faces are gone - like Larry Walter, who exited his post as vice president, of Marketing for Visit Jacksonville, and Kathleen Bertrand, who continues to serve senior vice-president - Community & Government Affairs for the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, but is pursuing other interests including her professional singing career rather than her ascension up the corporate ladder. Returning this year are industry veteran Ahmeenah Young, who took the helm as president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and Brenda Scott, who left her position with the Arlington CVB, only to resurface a short time later as vice president of Sales and Marketing for the Bryan-College Station Convention & Visitors Bureau. A new face on the list (but not in the industry) is Michael Munn, who has served chief of staff and director of Business Development for the Boston Convention Marketing Center (BCMC) since 2004.

Our list of potential CVB president candidates is up from 33 in 2008 to 37 this year, but still not nearly where it needs to be or should be, when you consider there are nearly 500 CVBs throughout the U.S. and only seven of them are headed by African-Americans. Naturally we realize that there are certainly more qualified Blacks out there in our industry that have not as yet come to our attention, so if you know of anyone who should be on our list, please let us know about them.

As we reiterate every year, this annual feature is our effort to head off the use of that tired old phrase "We'd love to consider an African-American for this position, but we can't find a qualified Black person to hire." This cadre of eminently qualified, highly skilled and experienced hospitality industry professionals are ready, willing and able to take on the responsibilities of a convention and visitors bureau president/CEO should the opportunity present itself.

The list that follows is only the tip of the iceberg. It does not even include former bureau heads like Carroll Armstrong or Leslie Doggett (Baltimore Area CVA) or Ron Davis (Oakland CVB), all of whom have a proven track record and whose wealth of expertise would be an asset to any organization. Suffice it to say that there are many, many African-Americans and other people of color, who based on their qualifications, deserve to be considered for heading a CVB when an opening occurs

LARRY ATCHISON serves as senior director of Sales, Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). Atchison has represented ACVB for 17 years and has directed Sales from the Bureau's Washington, DC office from 2003-2006. He provides insight and assistance to meeting planners considering Albuquerque. His primary concentration is with larger groups that would utilize Albuquerque's Convention Center. He is active in the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP), Society of Government Meeting Professional (SGMP) and Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA).

CLEO BATTLE is vice president of Sales and Services for the Richmond Metropolitan CVB. He is responsible for attracting meetings and conventions to the Region and servicing those groups while in Richmond.

Prior to his current position, he served as the Bureau's director of Sales. He also spent 10 years in the hotel industry as general manager, assistant general manager and director of sales. Battle serves on numerous boards and committees and holds a Masters of Business Management and Hotel Restaurant Bachelor degree.

YOLANDA BULLOCK-COOPER serves as the vice president of Short-Term and Multicultural Sales for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PCVB). Bullock-Cooper works to increase meeting and convention opportunities for the 6th largest city in the nation by highlighting the PCVB's diverse meeting services and one-stop-shop convenience. Her team is responsible for approximately 80% of the leads generated.

In addition to overseeing the short-term initiatives, Bullock-Cooper is directly responsible for multicultural & religious sales opportunities. Since the inception 21 years ago of the Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC), (a division of the PCVB), multicultural meetings & conventions have exceeded $1 billion in overall economic impact.

Bullock-Cooper joined the PCVB in 1997. A 25-year veteran of the hospitality industry, Bullock Cooper began her career in the casino gaming industry, and has worked in numerous hotels in key sales & marketing management positions. She is a graduate of the National Urban League Leadership Institute, and continues to serve on various industry related committees. Bullock Cooper co-facilitated the first ever PCMA session on Multicultural Marketing during the 2006 convention in Philadelphia, PA and has been featured in Black Meetings & Tourism, The Philadelphia Business Journal, Meetings East, and Hispanic Meetings & Travel.

RONNIE BURT serves as the senior vice president of Sales for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association - charged with leading the CVA's sales efforts, aggressively selling Indianapolis' changing convention product and managing satellite offices in both Washington DC and Chicago. Most recently, Burt was vice president of sales and services for the Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association.

With nearly 20 years in the hospitality and tourism industry, Burt began his career as a marketing executive at Caesars Hotel and Casino. He joined the Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association in 1999 as director of national accounts. In 2006, he served as the interim president and CEO. Burt is an active member of several professional industry associations, including the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI).


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