Northwest Indiana to host ’15 travel conference
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent March 20, 2014 6:19PM
Speros Batistatos, president of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: April 24, 2014 6:15AM
CROWN POINT — The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority has been asked to host the 2015 African American Travel Conference.
SSCVA board members on Thursday approved spending up to $45,000 on expenses associated with hosting the conference, which will take place at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville from April 14-16, 2015.
Heather Becerra, SSCVA chief marketing officer, said it is a little more than the agency usually spends on bringing a conference, convention or event to the region, but the additional business it could generate makes it worthwhile.
“It will bring 2,500 travel planners serving the African-American community here,” Becerra said.
The Group Travel Family puts on the conference along with several other similar conferences for travel professionals including Going on Faith, Select Traveler, Small Market Meetings and Boomers in Groups. The business also publishes Group Travel Leader, an industry publication that goes to 30,000 travel planners. Becerra said as a host the SSCVA will get a lot of exposure in the publication.
Hosting this event also will open up the opportunity for the tourism bureau to host the other travel conferences. Going on Faith will take place in South Bend in 2015. Becerra said it is possible the SSCVA could host that event as soon as 2017.
The African-American community is an important demographic to target in group travel, she said. According to Travel Industry American, African-Americans travel twice as often in group package tours than the rest of the population as a whole.
A survey of attendees at the 2012 conference in Rock Hill, S.C., found that the majority of the travel planners attending the conference host three to 10 trips per year with the average number of passengers for each trip at 30 or more. Ninety-six percent of those travel planners said they book their trips with somebody they met at the conference.
Speros Batistatos, SSCVA president and CEO, said he and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson will attend the 2014 conference in Windsor, Ontario, to announce Northwest Indiana as the host site for 2015.
Batistatos said while the cost to host the event is a little more than what the agency has spent in the past, there is a high propensity to book other opportunities from hosting the conference. “I think we can get ours done for less than $45,000,” he said.