Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May/June 2019
By: Solomon J. Herbert

I have revisited the feature "Who Will Be The Next Black CVB President/CEO?" in this May/June issue of Black Meetings & Tourism.  We have not run this feature in several years, but I felt the time had come to refocus attention on the abundance of African-American talent in this industry that are all too often overlooked for senior level positions at CVBs when openings become available.  The number of African-Americans heading CVBs in the US has hovered around 11-12 for a number of years, and sadly I have seen little growth and advancement for us in this area.

The encouraging news is that the 12 African-Americans currently heading up CVBs are among the most highly skilled and successful CEOs in the history of our industry.  They absolutely prove the case that people of color are not only qualified to hold such lofty positions of leadership, but often outperform their hospitality/travel/meeting industry counterparts at other bureaus!  Some of this success can be traced to our cultural traditions, where African-American parents have for generations drummed into our heads "You have to be twice as good as your competition in order to achieve success" in a world where there are so many barriers to Black boys and girls.

Industry pros like Elliott Ferguson at Destination DC, Al Hutchinson at Visit Baltimore, Julie Coker Graham at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, Larry Alexander at the Detroit Metro CVB, Karin Aaron at the Greater Newark CVB, Rickey Thigpen at Visit Jackson, Melvin Tennant at Meet Minneapolis, Patricia Washington at Visit Alexandria, Bennish Brown at the Augusta CVB, Shanitra Finley at Visit Yazoo, Timothy Bush at Louisiana's Cajun Bayou, and Ernest Wooden at the Los Angeles Convention & Tourism Board have all set a high standard of excellence for those from our community who want to follow in their footsteps. And they also serve as sterling role models who inspire young industry hopefuls of color to aim high, and always know that their dreams are indeed attainable if they are willing to put in the work.

In the past we have run (and will continue to run) "The Most Influential African-Americans in the Hospitality/Travel/Meetings Industry," which highlights those individuals who have already achieved significant success and are at the top of the food chain.  Then there's "Who Will be the Next Black CVB President/CEO," running in this issue, which focuses on those industry professionals who are ready to take the next step in their careers and assume the helm at a CVB.  So in keeping with our mission to encourage young people of color in our industry to aim high, we are introducing a new annual feature story in the September/October 2019 issue of Black Meetings & Tourism entitled "Emerging Leaders in Meetings/Hospitality."  Our goal here is to identify and highlight those who are relatively new to the industry that have already exhibited strong leadership qualities, and do our part to make sure there are plenty of people of color in the pipeline that leads to the executive level.

I am calling on each and every one of you in our reading audience to let me know about emerging leaders of color you may know at your bureau or another CVB.  Please email this information to me ASAP at my address below.  Together we can make a serious impact on this industry and be change agents to level they playing field!

Solomon J. Herbert



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