Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: January/February 2019
By: Victoria Head

Karin Aaron was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey and recalls growing up years after the 1960s rebellion.  Her family owned a thriving business in the city but quickly watched how neighborhoods deteriorated, property values fell and many began moving out of the city.  And although she and her three siblings moved away, her parents refused to leave as they continued to work, volunteer and commit to Newark for the long haul - that Newark will rise again.

Well that is no longer the case as Newark is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing cities in the Nation.  Headquarters to Prudential Insurance, Audible, Panasonic North America and PSEG, Newark has seen a rise in corporate and technology firms moving into the area.  And with the recent return of the Mars Corp, once located in Newark - and Amazon's potential HQ2, real estate, housing and growing employment opportunities are generating a huge interest for those who want to live, work and play in the city.

"When Searchwide called about the CEO position at Greater Newark Convention & Visitors Bureau I was a bit "set back," as I didn't know that Newark had a flourishing tourism scene." Unfortunately, my return trips to Newark mostly involved funerals, weddings and family reunions.  This was home and for the most part, I was in and out in a single weekend."  Now she is here, driving visitation and managing a staff of 15 as an anchor agency in the City.  Things have never been sweeter.

The irony of this is "My first job was in 1990 at Eastern Airlines and the Hilton Penn Station in downtown Newark." It was the first time I was introduced to the travel industry.  Subsequently she worked for Continental and United Airlines before moving to the Washington DC area.  And for the next 26 years she worked for partners such as Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels, and the Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner.   But it was in 2007 that the Newark-born tourism specialist took a National Sales position with Visit Loudoun County and then as director of Sales at Visit Montgomery (Maryland).  "It was my first taste of the tourism industry and I loved it.  Tourism is bigger than an overnight stay in a beautiful hotel, it is about your experience in that destination.  It's partnerships with your hotels, restaurants, attractions and entertainment venues that brings life to your city and I am proud that Newark has all of these attributes that make for a great destination to visit," says Aaron.

While working in her current role, Karin says "the greatest return for working as president and CEO of Newark is being able to give back to the town I grew up in.  This is my way of 'paying it forward' and I am thrilled to be a part of this growth.  There are five new hotels in the pipeline along with discussions for a future convention center.  Our proximity to NYC (12 miles) is a natural draw for those who want the accessibility to New York but don't want the high costs of lower Manhattan.  New attractions such as the Grammy Museum Experience or upscale restaurants like Marcus B&P are keeping visitors close and as occupancy and ADR continue to climb, conventions such as KCON America,  Amazon's VOICE Summit and Tony Robbins are drawing in thousands of people into the city for the first time.  International markets such as China, Brazil and Canada are flooding in and we are starting to see an uptick in domestic visitors from LA and Chicago.  Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) is the 15th busiest in the county, and with 42 Million passengers annually it is about time that they realize that Newark is Open for business and is a great city to visit too!"

About Newark:

Newark is the 3rd oldest city in the country; founded in 1666, it has rich history and culture.  There are various nationalities represented, Asians, Jewish, African-American, Caucasian, Latino-American and more.  Therefore, there's a lot of family culture and food to be experienced.  There are authentic Portuguese and Brazilian neighborhoods that have been here for generations.  When you come into Newark's Ironbound district, you'll be immersed in authentic Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine.  In this neighborhood, many of the streets and walkways remain just as they were a century ago.  There's no commercializing as the streets boast genuine bakeries, dress shops, wines and sangria reminiscent of their original preparation 100 years ago.

Newark has a large number of African-American churches that date back to the 1800s.  It is also one of the birthplaces of Jazz, where Sara Vaughan and many others got their start.  Some of the historical sites in Newark are the landmarks and communities that tell the story of the Underground Railroad and how African-Americans courageously made their way out of bondage, to a life of freedom. 

Regarding meetings…Prudential Center and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Wellness and Events Center are the new favorites for large-scale meetings and events.  Their large number of classrooms and open space is a perfect fit for training and conferences.  With over 4,000 guestrooms (and growing) and 110,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, the Greater Newark region offers a wonderful savings for your next event.  Plan your stay during one of these fun annual events: Lincoln Park Music Festival, a 3-day music festival, featuring all types of music, including jazz, Gospel, House and Hip-Hop;  The Newark International Film Festival, a 3-day festival showcasing the breadth of the film industry including screenings, stunt exhibitions, pitch opportunities and auditions for TV and film;  The Newark Arts Festival, which celebrates the rich diversity of the city's arts scene, allowing participants to experience exhibitions, studio tours, performances and screenings.

About Karin:

Karin Aaron is married to her husband Rodney and they have 3 adult sons. Karin is also the mama of a feisty Yorkie named Kandi. The couple travels frequently and prefers to visit culturally unique destinations and traveling abroad.   She has her Certified Tourism Ambassador  (CTA) designation, is an active member of the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association (NJTIA) and an association member with the New Jersey Destination Management Organization (NJDMO.)  Aaron also enjoys exercising and listening to opera and classical music.     She is passionate about sports and the need to promote sports tourism.  Aaron currently holds her Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE) designation and recently served as Fundraising Chair for Special Olympics Loudoun.  She also served on the board as Marketing Chair for WISE-DC, "Women in Sports and Entertainment."