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AATConference: Eighteen Years of Influence

“I had a lot of travel planner friends in the African-American community and simply invited them to get together,” said Charlie Presley, founder of AATConference, in looking back. From that simple beginning almost 20 years ago, a power in group travel emerged. Today, the AATConference delegates attending this year’s meeting will purchase more than $35 million of travel.

That impact on the group travel industry is because of the influence travel planners have in their communities.

“I do more than plan travel for my members,” said Pixi Witherspoon of Chicago. “I know them, and they trust me when they travel.”

This year’s AATC was hosted by the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau and was held at Pheasant Run Resort. Delegates were treated to sightseeing tours and were told of the group offerings of Pheasant Run Resort. Just west of Chicago in the scenic Fox Valley, St. Charles serves as a group destination for hub-and-spoke tours. “I discovered a new destination in my backyard,” Witherspoon said.

The travel industry was well represented at the conference, from destination delegates to cruise line employees. The Shrine of Christ’s Passion sponsored a breakfast where delegates learned of the attraction’s unique offerings. The shrine is located in northwest Indiana only one hour outside Chicago.

Cruising was a big topic of conversation, and MSC Cruises gained visibility with groups by hosting a luncheon that featured its group-oriented sailings. Sixty-two percent of AATC groups enjoy cruising on a regular basis.

To discover why your group should plan a trip to St. Charles, contact the Greater St. Charles CVB at 800-777-4373 or visit For more about group offerings at Pheasant Run Resort, call 630-584-6300 or visit