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Multicultural Convention Services Network founder aims to grab more of $100B market

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Clara Carter is the president and founder of the Multicultural Convention Services Network. Founded in 2004, MCCSN's goal is to engage ethnic associations and organizations to experience quality meetings in San Diego and to provide them with destination management, site selection and meeting planning services.

Q: For people who aren't familiar with the Multicultural Convention Services Network, briefly explain what it is and its main goals.

A: We are a full-service meeting management and destination management company. We offer services, including: group rooming accommodations, site inspection, transportation, staffing and meeting services, as well as off-site unique event venues. Our main goal is to capture for San Diego a greater share of the $100 billion multicultural tourism market. We are committed to putting "heads in beds," which in turns generates revenue back to the city of San Diego.

Q: What made you want to start something like MCCSN?

A: The idea came about when I noticed that our city was inconsistent in marketing to the multicultural tourism market. With this market being a $100 billion dollar industry, comprising of Asian, African-American, Hispanic and Native Americans, I realized that this market was too important to ignore or inconsistently market to. With this realization MCCSN was created.

Q: This is the fourth year of your Multicultural FAM tour. What are you most proud of and how has San Diego benefited from your FAM tours?

A: I am most proud of the fact that MCCSN has been successful in securing SDTMD funds to assist with the marketing outreach for MCCSN's FAM Tour. Through the funding, MCCSN has been able to hire several contracted professional experts and successfully market and create national interest in San Diego to multicultural associations. The city benefits from the FAM's national marketing advertisements and booked convention and meeting business. Last year MCCSN secured over 6,500 room nights, resulting in significant revenue, not only to the hotel, but the city businesses as well.

Q: What type of groups/organizations have you been able to persuade to bring their conventions to San Diego?

A: MCCSN has been able to bring association groups such as, The Hispanic Meeting Professionals, National Association of African American Studies Association, The National Bar Association, The National Association of Asian Professional's Retreat and the California Black Chamber of Commerce to bring their meeting to San Diego.

Q: How has the economy affected MCCSN?

A: We have experienced a significant drop in TMD funds for our FY11 FAM program. We have also experienced the shortage of corporate sponsorship dollars for our annual FAM Tour program. Additionally, we have experienced more cancellations and have as a result discovered that many meeting planners are finding it increasingly more difficult to get away to come to FAM Tour due to work restraints.

Q: What would your advice be to someone who is thinking about starting a business in a down economy?

A: Do your homework and intern with an organization that is as close to your model as possible. Learn as much about the industry as you can. Get out and make connections with like-minded individuals. Stay focused on your dreams. Be willing to invest your own money and time into your business, as you are more than unlikely to receive a loan from a bank during these tough economic times. It's important that you get a mentor or two or three so that you can bounce ideas and air your frustrations as you move forward with your dreams.

Q: What will MCCSN look like five years from now?

A: In five years, MCCSN hopes to be known globally as the go-to company for multicultural tourism on the West Coast. We plan to have a staff of in-house national sales managers, as well as, administrative staff. The goal is to reach our million-dollar status as the best multicultural meeting and destination management company -- and then I will be ready for retirement!

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