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1998 travel companion.

African-Americans are hitting the road, flying the friendly skies more than ever. And the industry is responding to this demand. Hotels, airlines, even convention and visitors bureaus are creating special packages and promotions to target the black business traveler to get to your destination, from booking flights and making room reservations on the Internet to working on the road and keeping in touch with the office. And African-American travelers are taking advantage of all the new innovations in travel.

Conventions & Beyond

According to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), African-Americans attend more conventions than any other group. Atlanta understands how important black convention business is. According to Kathleen Bertrand, vice president of Member and Community Affairs of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB), the city promotes to black meeting planners. Recent conventions hosted by the city include the African American Women on Tour. Coming up is the bi-annual National Black Arts Festival (NBAF), and the NAACP will host its annual conference there this year, something it hasn't done since 1962. The city works closely with planners to network with local black businesses. In fact, the ACVB convinced the NBAF to reschedule to coincide with the NAACP event. "Attendees can go to the festival and we're doing lots of cross promotions with the two," says Bertrand. Another great outlet is the city's Resource Center, where callers can find out about shows, restaurants, conventions, hotel info, as well as discounts, such as Atlanta's two annual promotions-"Celebrate The Holidays" in winter and "Celebrate The Summer."

The annual African-American visitors guide, Heritage Guide, is another networking resource. The bi-monthly Atlanta Now guide also includes a section of African-American interests. Then there's the website, on which the Heritage Guide is posted.

Sitting Pretty On American Airlines

The next time you take a seat on an American Airlines flight, you'll be a little bit more comfortable. The company's made the largest seat order in its 67-year history. All new seats will be installed systemwide by the year 2000. Not only will first- and business-class be enhanced, coach gets new high-quality seats as well. American also increased seat pitch, equaling 75% more legroom. Seat recline also increased.

There were other innovations for the carrier. One being its new NetSAAver website, through which travelers can save up 70%-80% off ticket prices. American also created an Urban and Community Relations division to build relationships with African-American corporations, travel agencies and meeting planners. Through the division American recently signed a three-year deal with the Links, Inc., an African-American professional women's organization, as its carrier.

The British Are Coming

Business travelers apparently like flying on British Airways (BA), so much so they ranked the carrier number one. BA isn't resting on its laurels. it announced incentives to get more passengers in their seats. The carrier reintroduced its popular "Long Weekender" deeply discounted fare to London. The deal lasts through March 31. This is just one of BA's promotions. This winter, business class, first or Concorde passengers to London and beyond earn a free ticket to anywhere. BA's "Ticket to the World" offer ends January 31 st. The free economy ticket will be usable on BA flights or its partners, Alaska Airlines, American, America West, Canadian International, Qantas. Flyers must be BA frequent flyer members. BA's also offering " A Taste of the World" packages featuring round-trip transatlantic airfare in economy class, three nights hotel accommodations and daily breakfasts. Packages to several European cities are available through March 31st.

Work And Play In The Lonestar State

One place African-Americans most often visit is the Southern region of the U.S., according to TIA. And Texas is a favorite destination. For this reason Dallas has been courting black travelers through its Black Chamber of Commerce. Four years ago the chamber, which at 72 years old and 1,500-members strong is the country's oldest and largest black chamber, launched a Convention and Tourism division. "Since our inception, Dallas has been serious in attracting black tourism business," says Dvorah Evans, director of the division. The African-American tourism market is good business. Black travelers, particularly conventioneers, spend more than any other group, says the TIA.

San Antonio is another Texas city targeting the black traveler. The city launched a special African-American Visitors Guide, listing cultural sites, events, and businesses. And it has two chambers geared at promoting black business and tourism. The Alamo Chamber and the African American Chamber of Commerce of San Antonio Inc. are major resources for local black business.

San Antonio's also been appealing to business travelers. Underway is a major convention center expansion, new hotel properties, and additional non-stop air service. Design work began in mid-1995 on the $187 million Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center expansion. The state-of-the-art facility will be completed January 2001.

If you're looking to get in a few rounds while in town, the city is a major golf destination, with 35 courses and one championship course at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort. The two-year-old La Cantera Golf Club is the newest offering, named one of the Best New Public Golf Courses of 1995 by Golf Digest. A 500-room luxury resort is being built at the club for spring 1999.

Vested In Charlotte

Charlotte's stats are impressive. It has the 17th most active airport in the U.S.-Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. There are 15,000 hotel rooms countywide. Its convention center ranks in Top 20 in total exhibit space. Charlotte, the largest city between DC and Atlanta, is in fact is one of the fastest growing metro areas in country.

It seems to have something for all visitors. There's a mix of the old and new, of business and recreation opportunities, of artistic and cultural amenities. Perhaps this is why tourism has been growing, particularly for the black traveler and conventioneer. Charlotte, which played host to the 1996 Annual NAACP Convention, is ready to meet the needs African-American travelers, so announces Melvin Tennant, president/CEO of the Charlotte Convention & Visitors Bureau in its African-American guide, Vested. What are the must-see sites? "Definitely the Afro-American Cultural Center; a Panthers football game at Ericsson Stadium; Hornets game at the Charlotte Coliseum, which is one of the country's finest true basketball arenas; and a visit to the black, private university, Johnson C. Smith.," says Tennant. "I'd also suggest a walking tour of Charlotte's historical district." The Visitors Center in downtown has information on self-guided tours and Queens City Tours provides African-American historical and cultural tours.

Free & Easy In Greater Ft. Launderdale

From the Sistrunk Business Corridor, named after Dr. James Sistrunk, Broward County's first black physician, to the new African-American Research Library and Cultural Center opening in 1999, Greater Ft. Lauderdale is promoting its black history. Why? African-American travelers have an estimated $25 billion in travel spending power. Realizing this, the city has created the Greater Fort Lauderdale Visitors Guide to African-American Life and Culture pamphlet, which lists not only events but also local black businesses.

Island Update

Even if you've been to the U.S. Virgin Islands, there's always something new to see. This year's no exception. Maybe you'll stay at one of the new or remodeled hotels, such as Marriott Resorts' renovated property on St. Thomas. Marriott's Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Resorts reopened in December. The resort's new specialty suites are 21 loft duplexes with views of Charlotte Amalie Harbor and the Caribbean Sea. Then there's the new Westin on St. John. The hotel chain purchased the former Hyatt Regency St. John and renovated the property to the tune of $12 million.

Soon there will be more places to shop. St. Thomas' Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina is building a large retail center. Designed like a European bazaar, the Sapphire Beach Retail Marketplace will also host music concerts.

Besides vacation getaways, the USVI remains a popular convention site. In fact, the Black Psychiatrists of America and the National Medical Association just held their 20th annual transcultural seminar on St. Thomas.

Flying High At US Airways

According to US Airways spokesperson David A. Castelveter, "There have been a great deal of developments at US Airways." One of the biggest is the possible creation of a low-cost airline under the carrier's banner. Baltimore/Washington International Airport will play a major role in its early 1998 launch.

Passenger demand is there. The carrier, which underwent a name change, boosted ridership by 8.7%. More African-Americans may be booking on US Airways, which has been targeting that market through advertising and sponsorship activities. To transport its increased clientele the company ordered new aircraft. The first of these enters the fleet in 1998's fourth quarter. And US Airways will build a new $300 million international terminal and a new US Airways Express terminal at Philadelphia International Airport.

Travel Tips for Women

Women are traveling on business at nearly the same rate as their male counterparts, yet there are safety concerns particularly for women. Airport thieves often target women. Limit carry-on luggage. Make sure bags aren't heavy and cumbersome. Keep at least one hand free. Strap your handbag across shoulders or incorporate those items into a carry-on. Avoid dark garages or empty rental car pick-up/drop-off places. Ask the rental car agent if they offer shuttle service or escorts.

Never give out your hotel room number. If a desk person announces your room number request another, asking that the number be written down and handed to you. Never admit anyone into your room, even room service if you haven't requested it. If someone calls your room announcing the arrival of a hotel maintenance person, for example, hang up and check with the front desk or guest services. Ask for a room near the elevator or in high-traffic areas. Avoid rooms at the end of the hall or the first floor. Don't use the stairs alone. If you're leaving the hotel late, request an escort to your car. If you're leaving a conference or meeting late have someone to walk you to your car.

Many hotels address the concerns of women guests. According to a Ritz-Carlton Hotels study, by the year 2000, more than half of its clientele will be women business travelers. The hotel introduced a program called "Corporate Woman Programme" at its Sydney, Australia, property. There are special in-room amenities geared especially for women. The hotel may introduce this program systemwide.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts sponsors an annual Women Business Travelers Program in conjunction with the National Association of Women Business Owners. The contest asks female guests for their best travel tips, the best of which Wyndham adopts chain-wide.

More Than A Hotel Room

Hotels are realizing travelers need to work on the road-and in the room. In fact, 70% of business travelers use hotel rooms as their office on the road. Many have created special in-room work spaces for this purpose. One of the first to do this was Marriott. In 1995, the hotel chain introduced the "Room That Works." At no extra charge, guests can request one of these rooms, which include a large console table and mobile writing desk, two power outlets and PC modem jack, movable task light, and a fully adjustable ergonomic chair. By early 1998 Marriott will complete the conversion, offering the "Room That Works" in a minimum of 20% of its non-resort, full-service guest rooms systemwide.

Marriott is also exploring additional guest room enhancements, including in-room tele-conferencing, specialized data and information access, multi-channel entertainment capability, "smart cards" for personalized services, guest controlled lighting and room configuration, and improved climate control systems.

Behind The Wheel

There have been many developments in the car rental industry, from airline tie-ins to improved dashboard navigational systems. National Car Rental has been looking for ways to improve its service. The firm has partnered with other travel-related companies. Renters can earn 500 Club miles for ITT Sheraton and 500 Flight Fund miles on America West. National's also completing a major European expansion. By February 1st, it begins serving 44 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Believe it or not, pick-up trucks are a new favorite at Budget Rent-a-Car. The rental agency recently introduced Ford Ranger and Chevy S10 extended-cab VIP pick-ups to its downtown and airport locations. And says Susan Welty, public relations manager, "The pick-ups have been a huge hit. It's hard to keep them on the lot." They seem to be a hit with both leisure and business travelers. Load lots of luggage, golf clubs or skis, and work equipment on them. They're also listed at a low price point. The trucks are part of Budget's "Cool Cars Are In" promotion, which also includes rentals of Jaguars and Seleen Mustang convertibles.

Want to ride the "Bus of the Future"? Hertz is using the Easy Access bus, the only one of its kind in the U.S., to transport customers from the airport to a Hertz facility. What's special? The buses have low floors, making for easier and quicker access. Plus it has wide doorways. Also the rental agency installed flight monitor systems in its shuttle buses in Atlanta. The system provides customers with "real time" continuous fight departure information on a monitor mounted in the front and rear of the bus. Hertz may install the monitors systemwide.

Thrifty Car Rental promises to get you on the road in 60 seconds. Called the Blue Chip Express Rental Program, the service is available at 65 of the firm's high-volume sites in the U.S. By January 31 st, all airport locations will have the program, through which customers supply Thrifty with standard rental data and preferences during reservation. The customer is assigned a number to use each time. Upon arrival at the renting site all rental documents are ready and waiting for the customer's signature.

It's Easier to Stay In Touch

New telecommunications' technology has made it easier to stay in touch when you're on the road. With e-mail, cell phones, beepers, pagers, faxes, it's almost as if you're still in the office. JFAX, from JFAX Personal Telecom, is a universal inbox that allows Internet users to receive faxes and telephone messages via e-mail. Then there's Samsung's new cellular phone, Duette, developed with AT&T Wireless Service. It has a digital readout and features constant voice contact, direct Internet access, and retrieval and transmission of e-mail via a wireless modem. It also has a menu-driven interface, fraud prevention, incoming alerts, caller ID, and a 99-number pre-set selection.

Personal Computer Rental Corp. may let you leave your computer at home. The national computer rental franchise is introducing online orders of computers, monitors, projectors and other office products over its Website. Consumers can order in advance as little as a day before through a secure credit card billing or request price quotes.

Airports are even getting into the act with workspaces called CyberOasis. Currently at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport and Kern County Airport in Bakersfield, Ca., the kiosks feature computers with access to Microsoft, Corel and Lotus software; high-speed modems; laser printers; internet access; and fax machines. Users can also set up an electronic mailbox accessible for 30 days. Currently, the kiosks only accept charge cards, which you swipe. Debit and smart cards will soon be usable and the company plans on national expansion.

Convention & Visitor Bureau, Car Rentals, Hotels, Airlines and Black Chambers of Commerce provide very valuable products and services for the African American business or vacation traveler. Each recognizes the economic clout demonstrated by African American entrepreneurs, corporate executives and vacationers during their travels.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Special Advertising Section; African American business travel is increasing
Author:Withers, A.L.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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