By Kwadjo Campbell, CEO, JC & Associates (jc-associates.com)
The $2.4 Billion dollar spent by African-American visitors is waiting for you to come up with the entertainment, retail, restaurant, or accommodation idea needed to attract it. How can you be a part of this booming sector? Join us this year at the African-American Tourism Conference on September 30th, 5 Liberty Street, Beatty Center College of Charleston (scaat.us). The annual African-American Tourism Conferences are focused on showing how we can to tap into one of the most visible and accessible engine of the local economy: The Tourism Industry.
The visitor economy boasts a $16 Billion dollar economic impact on the state, with $6 Billion dollars coming from Charleston, but unfortunately due to a lack of investment, the positive effects of this impact has not reached into the community beyond menial labor, and a few administrative positions. The potential is there, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the nation, because we are rich spiritual, cultural, and entrepreneurial traditions. The 2017 African-American Tourism Conference’s goal is three- fold: 1) Educate residents from historically disadvantaged communities about the resources available to churches, festivals, and businesses servicing the tourism industry, 2) Educate tourism industry officials about the benefits of investing into the development of this niche, and 3) Strategize on the future growth and development of this niche of the industry.
No Strategic Plan by Local Government or State Government
While there have been efforts by regional tourism agencies, non- profits, and even the private sector to develop this niche, there has been no serious investment by local government, and state government. Investment by these entities in the state’s other tourism sectors or niches have resulted in the industry’s recent feats as it relates to growth and increased economic impact. These entities’ investment comes in the form of funding economic impact studies, and funding of marketing campaigns that include advertising buys in national and international markets. People invest in what they care about, and if the Charleston and the State wants to grow this area of the industry they have to put some money behind it.
African-American Churches around South Carolina offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience a unique and authentic piece of African-American Lowcountry culture. The church is one of the surviving institutions in the African-American community and thus has preserved much of our African-American heritage. They can experience in a number of ways such as worship services. Learn history of the church and neighborhood via tours and lectures, and conferences. The architectural history of the Southern Black Church is another aspect the visitor can experience. Some churches date back from the 1700s and have been immaculately maintained, so locals and visitors can step back into time. These worship houses have been preserved in its original condition, and features beautiful stained glass windows and original woodwork throughout.
Festival, Conference, and Special Event Coordinators
There are a plethora of festivals, conferences, and special events taking place throughout the state coordinated by talented individuals with an amazing entrepreneurial spirit. These coordinators produce events that have the potential to draw additional millions to the state. Festivals such as the Sweetgrass Festival in Mt. Pleasant, The Remembrance Celebration on Ft. Moultrie, the Sweet Potatoes Festival in Columbia, and The Heritage Festival in Beaufort not only celebrate rich South Carolina traditions but offer visitors a chance to diversify their experience. Imagine the boost these events will receive when they are included in the national marketing campaigns of both of the various regional visitor and convention bureaus, or the State PRT office.
Business or Potential Businesses
The key to tapping into this industry for the community is product development. Product development in the area of tourism is defined as the specialization through the creation of products targeted toward specific market segments for the purpose of creating of value in a tourism destination. The community must investigate new products to offer or develop new ways to package and market old traditions and crafts. Perhaps you have an idea for an African-American styled bed and breakfast. Maybe you have an idea to bring visitors to John’s Island to experience the fishing traditions of Gullah folk. Visitors to Charleston are to experience the culture of the Holy City, and want authenticity- something real- and they will pay for this authentic experience. The conference discusses the strategies and resources in place and the ones that are needed to make this happen.
Strategy and Think Tank
The Annual African-American Tourism Conference is designed to show African-Americans how to tap into this mammoth $16 Billion dollar industry, and to show Tourism Industry leaders how this niche can grow industry by attracting millions of additional visitors. The right synergetic investment by local and state government, and regional visitor bureaus will serve as the catalyst to achieve this economic impact. We have the rich Gullah traditions alive and well in the historic churches, historic schools, existing and potential businesses within our borders to provide locals and visitors an experience that will educate their minds, and touch their souls. Join us so that we may strategize within the framework of a think- tank of ideas, stratagem, and resources for the development and advancement of the African-American Tourism sector in the state of South Carolina. Join us this year at the African-American Tourism Conference on September 30th, 5 Liberty Street, Beatty Center College of Charleston.