Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: March/April 2010
NCBMP & NABHOOD Form Strategic Alliance
By: Michael Bennett
Over the past few years I have written numerous articles on the importance of strategic alliances. Such collaborations are excellent vehicles to pool resources for the common good. Big business has been doing this for decades with great success. Our industry has several notable alliances, many of which you are very familiar with. For example, the Oneworld alliance is one of the world’s three largest global airline alliances whose members include American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific among others. These airlines offer global services to their customers on routes they wouldn’t ordinarily fly thereby increasing their individual footprint in the global marketplace.

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, along with the Fort Worth and Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureaus have a strategic alliance? These three destinations share information about clients who have met in their respective cities. Since most meetings rotate locations and probably won’t return to a city for several years, the information sharing is a great way to increase their marketing outreach. An organization such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization is a strategic alliance of Caribbean member nations who’ve come together to promote the region.

And now we have a brand new strategic alliance in our industry that will bring significant coordination of efforts to improve opportunities for African-Americans in travel, tourism and hospitality. The National Coalition of Black Meetings Planners (NCBMP) and the National Association of Black Hotel Owner Operators and Developers (NABHOOD) formed a Meetings and Hospitality Industry Collaboration to address the demands of education, training and workforce diversity.

The mission of this alliance is a collaborative one to provide solutions and effectively implement strategies for improvement of the status of African-Americans in the meetings and hospitality industry. This includes; educational assistance, job opportunities, hotel ownership, hotel development and support of Black-owned and operated venues. The idea of the alliance was promoted to NCBMP members during their December 2009 Fall Education Conference at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort in Daytona Beach, FL. Andy Ingraham, president of NABHOOD believes the timing for this alliance couldn’t be better. “The multicultural market is still growing…this alliance combined with our major hotel brands already owned by African-Americans should prove to the corporate world that this is a solid growth business” that should be part of any future plans.

“The current economic crisis has brought nonprofit mergers and other forms of collaboration into the spotlight. Organizations are exploring partnerships that will allow the sharing of resources and expertise for many reasons such as enhanced member services, cost savings programs and other financial indicators,” says Stella Beene-Venson, president of NCBMP. Among the benefits to both NCBMP and NABHOOD are the enhancements of educational opportunities for African-American meeting executives, hospitality students and industry professionals. This initiative will offer guidance and training for entrepreneurs who are interested in hotel ownership and development. An added benefit will be for meeting executives to support Black-owned and operated ventures. An international database will also be maintained to promote job opportunities for NCBMP members at NABHOOD hotels.

Warren Fields and the Pyramid Hotel Group own the Hilton Daytona Beach, where the December meeting was held. It’s one of over 500 Black-owned hotels spanning 30 states, Mexico and the Caribbean. Black-owned hotels are under the banner of such major brands as Marriott, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Renaissance and Sheraton to name a few. Despite the state of the financial markets there are several properties in development. Still others are drafting plans to purchase or develop new or distressed properties, thereby effectively increasing our stake in this business. Ingraham believes, “This is an extraordinary endeavor that will have a profound effect on African-American communities throughout the country. It will be a major step in ‘Taking Care of Our Own’….and follow the motto of the NCBMP –‘We Do Business with Our Friends’ and ensure the future of African-Americans in the meetings and hospitality industry.”

At press time many of the intimate details of the alliance have yet to be worked out, but one area of emphasis for both parties is the use of African-American owned hotel venues by NCBMP member organizations. It not only provides a united front, but should go a long way towards proving the point many in the African-American community have been espousing for years – the power of the Black dollar is a force to be reckoned with. As part of this effort Ingraham advocates establishing a reservation system for meeting planners to target Black-owned hotels for meetings and conventions. The ink on the alliance agreement is still drying so feedback from Coalition membership is still coming in, but Beene-Venson believes members will gravitate in large numbers to Black-owned properties as they become more aware of those venues. One of Beene-Venson’s first priorities is to establish this pipeline of information to the Coalition membership. How that will be done is still to be determined.

As many readers of this publication already know, typically during down economies such as the current recession, several destinations and venues at large make a concerted effort to attract the African-American meeting and convention business then fade away into the sunset once the general markets recover. While this may continue into the near future, having a pipeline to NABHOOD member properties and actually using these properties regardless of market conditions will provide an economic shot in the arm to Black-owned hotels. And redirecting dollars to friends will strengthen our collective bargaining power in dealing with those who only target our business when times get tough. Business priorities will still drive how meeting planners approach their task and represent their respective organizations.

In her capacity with the United Methodist Church Beene-Venson’s numerous meetings in any given year range in size from 12 to over 6,000, so diversity in the kinds of properties she and others seek is key to her success. “Some hotels have great room capacity and not enough meeting space and others have great meeting space and not so great room capacity. And that’s true whether those properties are Black-owned or otherwise,” explains Beene-Venson. But having a pipeline to available Black-owned properties will at a minimum allow NCBMP members to direct business where appropriate to those venues whether as a host hotel or a property that can handle the overflow.

Education and employment was stressed over and over again by both parties to this alliance. Establishing a pipeline of opportunities for advancement can only benefit the industry as a whole. This is networking and coordination at its finest and should be pursued with all due diligence. This collaboration is so new that Beene-Venson believes her immediate goal is to share more of the vision of the strategic alliance opportunity with NCBMP membership not only to show what the Coalition leaders are doing, but more importantly to hear from the membership on the best way to utilize this alliance and improve upon its promise of economic opportunity for all. Strategic alliances at times are complicated and contentious, but this alliance seems like a no-brainer and if administered properly will be a win/win for all parties. Both parties are looking to create the cohesion necessary to ensure success and build wealth within our community.

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