Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: Novenber/December 2013
Publisher's Message
By: Solomon J. Herbert

Throughout 2014, we at Black Meetings & Tourism will be celebrating our 20 th year of publishing.  Many changes have taken place in the industry during those 20 years, some of it to be applauded, some of it questionable.  We have watched the number of African-Americans who head convention & visitor bureaus in the nation go from zero to eight.  Likewise, we remember when there was just one Black-owned hotel (in Memphis), while today, there are over 500, and only one Black hotel general manager (John Dixon at Marriott in DC), an elite club that has now grown to nearly 100.  And though this is just a drop in the bucket when you consider there are about 500 CVBs and perhaps 55,000 hotels across the nation, it is progress nonetheless. It is all the more remarkable that those who have managed to achieve such heights and realize such success accomplished all this in a hospitality industry that history has shown us is not particularly hospitable to people of color.

The good news is that we have witnessed the emergence of the African-American segment as an important player in the marketplace.  Fortunately, some destinations, airlines, hotel brands and other entities have taken the time to do the research and educate themselves about the value of this burgeoning niche and work their way past the stereotypical images of most Black folk being without the resources to participate in travel related activities. Consequently, they are the select few reaping the lion's share of the more than $56 billion generated by this segment annually.

The bad news is that far too few leaders within our industry have yet to learn the lesson that the McDonald's and Proctor & Gambles of the world learned long ago - that the African-American market is an untapped goldmine with lots of discretionary money which it is not bashful about spending.  I have no doubt that this mindset is the direct result of the lack of diversity at senior management levels and in the boardrooms at CVBs, state departments of tourism, cruise lines and lodging industry giants that cripples our industry and prevents it from reaching its full potential.

So as we move into our second 20 years, we are rededicating ourselves to continue acting as a catalyst for change, showcasing those destinations, individuals and companies that get it right and fully embrace diversity and inclusion as part of their corporate culture at all levels.  We will also continue our support of those organizations that are committed to helping level the playing field for African-American meeting planners, travel agents and other industry professionals.  The National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, Travel Professionals of Color, and the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers are the three premier industry organizations which are dedicated to providing educational and professional development opportunities for our community.  They have my unwavering support, and they should have yours too!

And finally, let me take this opportunity to report on a new Multicultural Travel & Tourism Conference that is being planned for July in Miami.  NABHOOD's Andy Ingraham, Black Meetings & Tourism, and a number of industry veterans are coming together to reprise the tourism conference that morphed into the NABHOOD Summit nearly 18 years ago.  This gathering promises to be a major addition to the annual schedule of industry conferences, and will deal with issues relevant to the multicultural market in a way that no other trade gathering is capable of doing.  If you are interested in the Multicultural market, you can't afford to miss being there!

Solomon J. Herbert

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