Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: March/April 2011
Destination Matters
By: Victoria Head

There’s little doubt that “location, location, location” is key in real estate. The same is true when it comes to meeting and convention planning. Where you hold your event is as important as the program content. Having your meeting or incentive travel event in Florida means you’ll enjoy a bright, sunny setting with attendees who are happy to be here, motivated and more productive. The Sunshine State is understandably proud of our beautiful beaches and world-famous weather, which offer a destination where inspired employees can be at their best. As VISIT FLORIDA’s meetings campaign “cover girl” Flo, the Fabulous Florida Meetings Flamingo proclaims, “Destination Matters.”

Florida boasts an immense and diverse collection of meeting and convention facilities, from premier properties to sand-in-your-shoes casual, each of which is located near one or more of the Sunshine State’s world-renowned attractions. In Florida, groups can take to the water for boating and fishing or stay on dry land with championship golf courses and world-class spas. Florida even offers a large selection of green lodging designated properties and socially responsible activities throughout the state.

Florida’s budget-friendly year 'round and seasonal values make it easy to stretch your meeting dollars. Whether a group is interested in holding their meeting in the northern, central or southern part of the Sunshine State, there are many properties whose top-notch facilities are available at budget-friendly prices. With 825 miles of beaches and 1,260 miles of coastline to choose from, Florida offers a wide variety of beachfront accommodations to meet the needs of any meeting or incentive group.

Of course, unplanned occurrences sometimes affect meetings, but when it comes to Florida, weather-induced cancellations need not be a problem. VISIT FLORIDA’s Cover Your Event (CYE) supplemental insurance for meetings held in the Sunshine State covers loss due to named hurricanes. Another service, offered by the Florida Commission on Tourism through VISIT FLORIDA, is the Minority Convention Grant Program made available to local governments and non-profit corporations/organizations to attract new national minority conferences and conventions to the Sunshine State.

To see for yourself why Florida is a great venue, plan to attend Florida Encounter - a premier annual appointment-based trade show where planners can meet, individually and by appointment, with Florida’s top suppliers. Conceived, produced, and sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA and now in its 31st year, Florida Encounter offers attendees an opportunity to establish valuable contacts and explore Florida’s unsurpassed services and venues in a relaxed atmosphere, saving time and money in the process.

Florida is a state that lives for tourism. Given the Sunshine State’s exceptional hospitality, unparalleled activities and attractions, convenient air accessibility and unsurpassed budget-friendly value, there’s little wonder meeting attendees invite their friends and family along to experience a memorable Florida getaway as part of their business or incentive travel planning. “It’s good business to do business in Florida” – choosing the Sunshine State means you are providing your employees with not only a breathtaking setting for your meeting, but a world-famous destination for them to enjoy during their free time as well.

For more information, please go to or contact Joyce Stillwell at and Steven Bonda, CMP at


The City of Fort Lauderdale celebrates its centennial in 2011, saluting the spirit of diversity in a friendly beach resort setting. Greater Fort Lauderdale has become the preferred site for some of the nation's most prestigious and influential gatherings of African-American organizations. It's a place with an inviting vibe where you can enjoy beaches, golf, and warm weather, while experiencing the flavors of culturally diverse activities as well as map out plans for the future.

Nearly 8,000 educators and church leaders will converge on the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center this summer for the National Baptist Congress. The Congress, serving the interests of African-American Baptists, June 12-17, will feature 100 classes on evangelism, finance, marriage, teaching ministries and other topics. Albert Tucker, vice president of Multicultural Business Development for the bureau, predicted the conference will generate $5 million to the local economy. Tucker has also helped attract several other Black conferences to the area, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which will bring an expected 10,000 women to Broward this spring.

At the mid-winter conference of the Association of Executives of the National Urban League, over 100 select top leaders, including Broward County's 35-year-old chapter, returned to Greater Fort Lauderdale to re-energize and strategize around key concerns and economic and social issues facing Black communities in the U.S.

The 100 Black Men of America organization crafted its most ambitious meeting to date during a first-time stop in Fort Lauderdale in June. International members came from as near as the Caribbean and as far away as Europe to the 24th annual conference, which focused on the expansion of the group's global education, mentoring and empowerment programs for African-American males. Members also gave back to the community by participating in local projects, leaving a lasting impact on the Fort Lauderdale area. Chairman Albert Dotson credits the organization's partnership with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau with making this year's conference a community-wide effort, and one of the most exciting ever.

Planning a family reunion? The area boasts casino gaming, racing, golf, cricket, outlet shopping, water sports and many parks and natural wonders. Culture is always on the menu with the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, the Old Dillard Museum, Jazz in the Gardens, Jamaican Jerk Festival and SunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch, and the heritage of the Seminole Indians is found at Billie Swamp Safari in the Everglades. Caribbean-style and Florida fusion cuisine along with some of the South's best soul food and BBQ can be found throughout the area.

Over the last 100 years, Greater Fort Lauderdale has mushroomed from a sparsely inhabited farming community to a center of international tourism. The area has a proud, diverse cultural heritage with people from the African Diaspora. Greater Fort Lauderdale charmed early arrivals as a place of transition and discovery, just as it continues to lure meetings and visitors today. For more information contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB at (800) 356-1662 or


How often have you attended a meeting in a city and never seen anything but the hotel and conference rooms? Getting out and experiencing some of the unique attractions in the area can be the difference in how delegates view the success of a conference. Gainesville provides that opportunity for the unique and memorable conference experience. These venues provide planners with additional flexibility in terms of seating and meals that the traditional meeting sites do not. One of Gainesville’s best sites in this arena is the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art.

The Harn Museum of Art is a unique meeting site in the heart of the University of Florida Cultural Plaza. The multiple reception and business meeting spaces ensures your event will be surrounded by a portion of the Harn’s 8,000 works of art which include African art, Asian art, contemporary art, modern art and photography. In addition to art, the museum boasts several interior and exterior sculpture gardens, which can be used as an event backdrop. The Camellia Court Café offers dine-in opportunities or items can be pre-order for a business lunch in the adjacent boardroom spaces. Guided docent led group tours of the exhibits can be scheduled with three weeks advance notice and are offered at no cost. Admission to the museum is free.

Not only is a site like the Harn Museum unique it is flexible and affordable. The Harn is only one of the unique venues Gainesville would love to share with you. Nancy Fischer, CMP, is prepared to guide you to the best site for your needs and she can be reached at (866) 778-5002 or To find out more information about the Harn Museum visit and for renting space contact Vicki Tyson at

In an area with white sandy beaches, fresh-from-the-gulf seafood, year-round festivals, eco-tours and a thriving arts community, you might think the Pensacola Bay Area is the perfect destination for a beachside group getaway. However, as “North America’s First European Settlement,” meetings in Pensacola make their mark for more than just a beautiful seaside retreat. Groups are swept away by 450 years of history including world-class museums, public archaeology projects and a historic village. With a legacy ranging from Spanish buccaneers and pre-Civil War forts to modern jet fighters, the area features a variety of unique meeting sites.

Pensacola offers an inspirational atmosphere for strategy sessions, motivational meetings and rejuvenating retreats. Meeting space ranges from conference, convention and trade show settings to boardroom-styled facilities. Choose from a variety of lodging options including area hotels, motels and condominium complexes, in addition to amenities such as suites, spas and special group rates and services.

And it’s easy to get here. Pensacola Regional Airport offers more than 100 flights daily to major cities in the U.S. ( and Pensacola is easily accessible from 1-10 and 1-65. To request a meeting planner’s guide, email or call (800) 874-1234. For more information, go online to

Groups come together in Tallahassee, with charming accommodations, African-American historic sites, state-of-the-art facilities and tempting diversions, from outdoor adventures and shopping to museums and modern art. The city’s location – off Florida’s northern I-10 corridor – provides easy access from major southeast metropolitan cities (

It’s the Capital City’s inviting hospitality that keeps groups coming back whether to use the approximately 6,000 hotel rooms and 400,000 sq. ft. of meeting space or Maclay Gardens and Wakulla Springs State Parks and the multitude of local parks to hold family reunions.

Tallahassee is enriched with a deep-rooted African-American heritage such as the 1865 reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 1956 bus boycott that resulted in the abolishment of segregated seating on public transportation and Civil Rights monuments. Noteworthy sites abound including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and preserved treasures such as the John G. Riley Center, Carrie Meek-James N. Eaton, Sr. Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center & Museum and the Black Heritage Trail.

Whether visiting for business or pleasure, Tallahassee accommodations range from comfortable inns and restored bed and breakfasts with a historic touch, to hip boutique hotels and familiar corporate flags. Meeting planners choose from Mission San Luis, with a new $7.6 million, 24,000-sq. ft. visitor center and modern space amidst a 16th century community where Appalachee Indians and Spanish newcomers lived together, to Goodwood Museum & Gardens featuring an antebellum mansion-turned-museum along with space options ideal for corporate retreats, board and staff meetings or other events.

New to Tallahassee is the FSU Turnbull Conference Center, integrating the latest meeting technology with more than 47,000 sq. ft. of space. And Hotel Duval downtown, the city’s newest and only boutique hotel with eight event rooms, a stylish rooftop ballroom and two private rooms inside Shula’s 347.  Additional meeting venues range from the Tallahassee Automobile Museum, displaying Lincoln’s hearse and Batmobiles, and the University Center Club’s 64,000-sq. ft. space with a grand ballroom and two outdoor decks overlooking Florida State University’s field, to the downtown Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, providing 69,000 sq. ft. of convention space accommodating up to 1,200 guests and an outdoor plaza.

A fusion of cosmopolitan flair and charming personality defines the spirit of Tallahassee, Florida’s Capital City – where it all comes together for visitors. A place where college town meets cultural center, politics meets performing arts and history meets nature – a place where the vibrancy of what to do is matched only by the city’s inviting hospitality. Contact Janet Roach, Meetings and Conventions Director, at (800) 628-2866 or visit


Acclaimed for its diverse attractions, warm weather and equally warm hospitality, Tampa Bay offers a variety of meeting and event options with as much to explore as there is to enjoy. The choices of where to stay, meet, dine and have fun are limitless, and Tampa Bay comfortably accommodates all tastes, timelines and travel needs.

Tampa Bay is well connected to the rest of the US and the world with our award winning Tampa International Airport, located seven miles from downtown. And once here, rest easy at one of Tampa Bay’s overnight options, including over 2,000 committable hotel rooms within walking distance from the Tampa Convention Center.

The 600,000-sq. ft. Tampa Convention Center is located directly on the downtown Tampa waterfront and offers priceless flexibility, convenience and functionality, including direct access to one of the area’s newest treasures – the Tampa Riverwalk. Lined with hotels, meetings venues, green spaces, museums, parks and even a water taxi, it gives convention attendees an exciting and safe way to enjoy the best that Tampa can offer.

Packed with excitement, the Tampa Bay area offers an explosion of educational, entertaining and cultural attractions. Explore the wonders of Tampa Bay’s scientific playground at the Museum of Science & Industry. Come face-to-face with more than 350 species of animals at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Find what lurks in the depths of the dark, icy-cold waters at The Florida Aquarium. Watch exotic animals in their natural habitats at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and Big Cat Rescue.

These attractions are not only excellent places for your convention guests to visit pre- and post-meeting, they also serve as unique and inviting off-site group venues for that special and memorable event.  Tampa Bay is home to the best that Florida has to offer, so be certain to include us when planning your next meeting or convention.  For more information contact Sherri Brown at Tampa Bay & Company at (813) 342-4062 or
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