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AATC sets records in Virginia Beach

Courtesy Virginia Beach CVB

VIRGNIA BEACH, Va. — The African American Travel Conference drew a record attendance of more than 225 travel planners from 23 states and a total of nearly 400 delegates to its annual conference April 12-14 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

The AATC Marketplace held 9,000 one-on-one business appointments between travel industry delegates and travel planners, whose groups will operate more than $50 million worth of group tours this year, take $3.5 million of cruises, charter 4,200 buses and fill 60,000 hotel rooms.

One of those groups will be led by Burkes and Julia Esaw, of Esaw’s Travelers in Detroit, who will celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary by taking 32 passengers on a New England and Canada Cruise this August. They are both in their 90s.

“This conference is significant to Virginia Beach tourism as we are working hard to develop this important and emerging multicultural market,” said Kelli Norman, director of tourism marketing for the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The reactions from the planners were very positive and most stated that they had not been to Virginia Beach in many years. They were very excited at how it has changed over the years and thought that it was beautiful.

“Many commented on the diversity of things to do and wanted to come back with a group for either a family reunion, specific event or a combined regional tour,” said Norman.

During the opening ceremonies, three students in the travel and tourism field from area schools — Tidewater Community College, Norfolk State University and Hampton University — received scholarships. Money was also raised for the United Negro College Fund.

Grant S. Williams Sr., (top photo) a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, spoke to the group at an evening function at the Military Aviation Museum.

AATC 2012 will be held in Baltimore April 18-20.