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Baltimore rolls out the red carpet for AATC

Courtesy Visit Baltimore

BALTIMORE — Travel planners from 20 states gathered in Baltimore April 18-20 for the 17th annual African American Travel Conference (AATC).

Visit Baltimore was host to the conference at the Baltimore Convention Center, where representatives of the travel industry met with travel directors in six-minute business sessions during two marketplace sessions. A total of 4,500 appointments were held during the marketplaces, and networking opportunities were held during all three days.

The mission of the African American Travel Conference is to create marketing opportunities, education and networking between travel decision makers and the travel industry.

“Baltimore was a perfect destination for the African American Travel Conference,” said Joe Cappuzzello, president of AATC. “The city rolled out the red carpet, hospitality was top notch and groups will put Baltimore on their travel schedule.”

“Visit Baltimore was thrilled to host AATC in Baltimore,” said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore. “Diversity marketing is a big priority for us, and AATC provided the chance to share updates on multiple new group tour-related events and amenities including the group tour bus terminal, the events surrounding the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, Baltimore’s African American Festival and the upcoming centennial of Harriet Tubman.

“We hope the group enjoyed learning more about Baltimore’s history and culture and left wanting to come back to learn more about our walkable historic city.”

Delegates participated in an afternoon of sightseeing that gave them a firsthand feel of what they could deliver to their groups on returning to Baltimore. Following city sightseeing, delegates enjoyed dinner and entertainment at the B & O Railroad Museum, where they were seated in the building’s massive roundhouse.

Opening ceremonies and dinner were held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, the largest African-American museum on the East Coast.

The conference set attendance records, with much of the credit being given to Baltimore as a desired destination. “Baltimore has so much to offer — history, museums, sightseeing, affordable lodging, great dining, the Inner Harbor and of course hospitality,” said Cappuzzello.

Although Visit Baltimore hosted the event and the State of Maryland Office of Tourism gave strong support, many others in the travel industry were in major sponsorship positions.

ABC Destinations sponsored marketplace kickoffs, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and Globus Family of Brands hosted breakfasts, and Z-Best Limousine provided transportation. Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores sponsored the marketplace rest stops for the sixth year.

Diamond Tours and Hoosier Park Racing and Casino rounded out sponsor positions. Caesars Resort Windsor Canada took the opportunity to educate the delegates about passport needs in today’s travel climate and took the added step of distributing U.S. passport information and photography to delegates for their group members.

Rock Hill/York County, S.C., sponsored the closing luncheon and was joined by Narroway Productions for entertainment. Rock Hill will be the site of the 2013 African American Travel Conference April 23-25.

Delegates of this year’s African American Travel Conference, along with Visit Baltimore and Cracker Barrel restaurants, contributed more than $4,000 to the United Negro College Fund.

“This money goes directly to students in tourism and hospitality and is our third year of record donations,” said Charlie Presley of AATC.

The conference is the largest meeting in the group travel industry targeted for the growing African-American market. The travel industry has taken note of this market in great part due to the large volume of group travel in the community. It is reported that the African-American community travels on group tours at a rate twice that of the population as a whole.

For information on attending next year’s African American Travel Conference in Rock Hill, S.C., contact Teresa Burton at 800-628-0993, or online at: