The Charleston Chronicle

African American Tourism Conference: An Opportunity for Black Businesses to Strategize & Organize

  • African American Tourism Conference attendees
Staff Reports

The Wando-Huger Community Development Corporation last week announced its fourth annual African American Tourism Conference to be held September 26 at the College of Charleston. The conference will focus on growing the African American niche in the tourism industry in South Carolina.

The tourism industry produces revenues of some $7 billion in the Charleston region and $17 billion statewide. It has an economic impact of at least $300 million in the Black owned business niche of the industry. And although not all Blacks in the industry feel the conference will benefit them, conference coordinators say it is important that Black businesses organize and develop strategies for participation in the tourism industry.

The consulting firm of JC & Associates has been contracted to produce the conference.
JC& Associates partner Kwadjo Campbell said it’s important that Black owned businesses realize they should be participating in the lucrative tourism industry beyond the sales of sweetgrass baskets, Gullah cuisine and Black tour guides.

Virtually any business that is Black owned can carve a niche out of the tourism industry, he said. Black artists, transportation providers, Black churches and historic sites all should be participating in the industry, he said. But not all Black business owners see any advantage in participating in the conference. One owner asked how the conference benefits participants.

The benefits of the African American Tourism Conference, like those of any other conference, depends on how well participants use the information and training they receive, Campbell said. He pointed to workshop sessions on building relationships, marketing to African American tourists and resource development as opportunities for businesses to gain information and training.

But two sessions conducted during the September conference are of extreme importance, Campbell said. He noted the S.C. State Legislature this year included some $80,000 in the state’s budget to conduct an economic impact study of tourism on Black businesses. The University of South Carolina study will provide the hard data businesses can use to position themselves for participation in the industry, Campbell said.

In conjunction, the conference this year also will conduct a strategic planning session. The goal is to increase the growth of the African American niche in the industry by educating industry officials about the benefits of supporting niche businesses and educating rural and urban communities on how to expand tourism and cultural programs and businesses.

In the past the conference has attracted about 85 participants each year. But Campbell says even small business operations like those that provide seasonal sea foods such as oysters and crabs can learn how to maximize the benefits from their roles in the industry. Other business communities exploit the advantage of networking. The African American business community also should tap into the tourism industry as others have. More importantly, they must begin to strategize, he said.

Registration for the conference begins 9 a.m. at the Beatty Center located at 5 Liberty St. on the College of Charleston campus. The cost is $35 for members of the African American Tourism Council and $50 for others. For information contact Kwadjo Campbell at (864) 270-3784 or online at [email protected]
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