by Jonathan Vatner | July 01, 2004

Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel African
Methodist Episcopal Church

For those charged with finding a welcoming city to host gatherings of ethnic or racial minority groups, the process is getting a little easier. Convention and visitor bureaus in many cities with especially heterogeneous populations have taken an extra step to court the minority meetings market, highlighting their own diversity and enlisting the support and participation of their own residents.
     “A lot of these cities are now recognizing the value of their multicultural heritage,” says Margaret Gonzalez, president of the International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals and founder/president of the GVR Public Relations Agency, both based in Houston. “They’re starting to use that as a value-add in terms of bringing groups.”
     Following are some diverse destinations that welcome minority meetings.

About 10 to 15 percent of Atlanta’s 3,000 yearly meetings come from African-American groups. That’s not surprising, given the city’s racial makeup.
     Atlanta is home to five historically black-attended universities, making it perhaps the most influential intellectual hub for African Americans in the nation. The National Black Arts Festival, an annual 10-day event, has helped solidify a presence in the city for African-American art and culture.
     Atlanta’s CVB is networking with more African-American associations to try to attract their conventions. The bureau also is working to bring more African Americans into the hospitality business, according to Bill Howard, vice president of marketing for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Hartford, Conn.
When the Greater Hartford CVB offered to pay airfare, hotel and registration fees for all 80 attendees of the 2003 meeting of the International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals, the association couldn’t say no. The CVB went on to host the opening reception and a lunch, as well as provide local entertainment free of charge. “It was expensive,” says Karen Staples, CMP, national sales manager for the GHCVB, “but we wanted to show that this market is very important to our community.”
     Hartford is 51 percent Hispanic and has a Hispanic mayor. The city also is home to large populations of African  Americans, Asian Americans and West Indians. Staples is involved with both the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and the IAHMP. This year, she is spearheading a marketing campaign aimed at showcasing Hartford’s attractions for minorities, including the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, where Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written.