AKA Convention leaving Houston $30 million richer

If you think you’ve seen a lot of women wearing pink and green lately, it isn’t your imagination.  The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority is hosting a convention here, but Houston almost missed out on hosting tens of thousands of guests gathering at George R. Brown Convention Center.

They booked Houston for their event four years ago, then Harvey hit causing some in the group to wonder if the Bayou City was a bad choice.

The waves of women wearing pink and green make our vivacious visitors easy to spot.  The ladies of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority are gathering in Houston for a colossal convention.  On their Bayou City getaway they are shopping and spending plenty of cash.

"Close to $30 million.  (These ladies are spending $30 million in Houston?)  For sure.  In the summer in Houston.  We couldn’t be happier,” says the President and CEO of Visit Houston, Mike Waterman. But Harvey almost took those tourism dollars away.  The last time some members of the sorority were here, the city was devastated by flooding and the ladies came to help put Houston back together again.

“I live in Dallas.  Being so close, I had to do something.  So I brought some students down,” explains AKA member Margo McClinton Stoglin.  

Other AKA’s saw the destruction on TV and thought, even months later Houston must still be a work in progress.  They were pleasantly surprised to find otherwise.  "I was actually,” Andrea Farmer visiting from Oklahoma says smiling in agreement. 

To make sure these visitors enjoy and encourage others to come, Houston First, which promotes the city, is showing everything Houston has to offer.  One spot, in fact, used to be simply storage space inside the George R. Brown Convention Center. Now it’s farm-to-table dining.

"We were invited to create this special pop up cafe which we are calling Cafe Julia especially for the AKA’s,” explains Julia Hogan-McNeil who has Julia Cooks Organic food truck.  The cafe alone for the AKA convention has created more than 50 jobs.  “Kim Roxie, owner of Houston’s LAMIK Make Up is actually doing make up and pitching in on the cash register today.  Landy and Company they helped provide the charging stations. Katy of Katy Creates put together the graphic designs. So it’s awesome women entrepreneurs working together,” Hogan-McNeil says. 

“The convention has filled up all of the hotels in Houston.  We have 140,000 hospitality employees in Houston and all of them are busy this week. We actually are tracking business year over year and don’t forget we had the Super Bowl last year and we’re up five percentage points over last year in room nights for the city,” adds Waterman.  The AKA convention wraps up Wednesday.