“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” – Karen Kaiser Clark

Given all the racial injustice happening across the country, conversations around equity, diversity and inclusion – which were formally often reactive to specific situations – have transitioned to proactive discussions to effectively implement change. However, many are wondering the best place to start.

The first step is to simply begin the conversations in an honest and open environment. It will be uncomfortable and may pose challenges. But having a discussion will help uncover what these topics truly mean to each individual within your organization.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: 4 Tourism Resources

Last week on our podcast, we shared four resources on diversity, equity and inclusion specific to the tourism industry to help you think about how to approach conversations and take action for change. Keep in mind, everything does not have to be done immediately. Identify what is most important to the organization and then develop attainable next steps.

Video: 5 Questions About Race

“Following the death of George Floyd and the overwhelming response nationwide, seven Black executives from destination marketing organizations across the country partnered on a video to share their experiences and encourage an open dialogue about race and racism throughout their lives and in the tourism industry.”

This powerful video premiered at Destinations International’s 2020 Annual Convention on July 14 and asks the following questions:

  1. How is it different growing up black in America?
  2. Why do I need to be 10X better?
  3. How has the murder of George Floyd impacted you?
  4. How have recent events changed how you work with others in our industry?
  5. What would you tell non-black professionals who want to support the inclusion of black people?

Some excerpts from the video:

“As a Black professional who has worked hard to be in a position of leadership in my industry, I have experienced and seen my share of racial inequality,” said Cleo Battle, chief operating officer, Louisville Tourism. “The time is now to make changes in our industry for the future and I proudly join my colleagues in helping to lead the conversation forward.”

“We’ve watched as calls for social justice have swept the nation in recent weeks, and it’s time for the tourism industry to step up,” said Dan Williams, vice president, convention sales and services, Experience Columbus. “If history has shown us anything, it’s that the Black community cannot do it alone, so we’re asking for our industry’s help. Yes, it starts with listening and learning; but we also have to have some tough conversations. We have to allow ourselves to see others’ reality and get uncomfortable. We need you to stand beside us and use your voices to ensure equity in our industry, and our lives, starting now.”

Destination International’s Board Diversity for Destination Organizations

The majority of Destination Organizations in the US operate under a nonprofit Board of Directors. A recent study out of Indiana University found that only 7.5% of nonprofit Board rosters were made up of African Americans, when the black population of the United States is nearly twice that.

In a recent study by Searchwide Global, the leading executive search firm in the travel and tourism space, it was found that Destination Organization Boards were typically boomer-male dominated, and 65% of Destination Organization CEOs were dissatisfied with the ethnic diversity on their Boards. Other findings included:

  • While LGBTQ representation has improved, it is still rarely addressed at the Board level.
  • There are very few Boards that include those who are physically challenged in some way.
  • Young professionals need to be better represented.

Actionable steps to incorporate more diversity into industry boards:

  1. The uncomfortable conversation
  2. Perform an honest assessment of whether the Destination Organization Board represents the community it serves.
  3. Develop a public-facing statement regarding the Organization’s unwavering support of diversity, equity and inclusion both internally and community-wide.
  4. Establish a standing committee dedicated to ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion both internally and community-wide.
  5. Establish goals for diversity at all levels of the organization (board, committees & staff).
  6. Create a Board Nominating Committee that includes community leaders that did not hold Board seats.
  7. Create a Board Development Matrix to guide the nomination process.
  8. Reach out to influential leaders within each target community for recommendations for future Board members.
  9. Upon seating the new operating year’s Board, develop an intentional onboarding process prior to the first meeting of the year.
  10. Develop a pipeline of future candidates to operationalize the process

Webinar: Leading by Example: Lessons in Race and Racism by the U.S. Travel Association

“U.S. Travel’s National Chair Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president & CEO, Destination DC moderates an important conversation about race and diversity within the travel industry and how we can work toward a more inclusive environment. This candid discussion provides personal perspectives on current events, looking specifically at how leaders of all backgrounds can make meaningful changes in the workplace to promote racial equality at all levels and set an example for future leaders within the travel industry.”

The panel includes Elliott Ferguson, president & CEO at Destination DC, Michelle Mason, president & CEO at Association Forum, Brandon Meyers, chief revenue officer at ADARA and Ernie Wooden Jr., president & CEO at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.

Ernie Wooden Jr., LA Tourism & Convention Board (top left), Michelle Mason, Association Form (top right), moderator Elliott Ferguson, Destination DC (bottom left), Brandon Meyers, ADARA (bottom right)

An OPEN LETTER to Our Colleagues and the World from Black Destination Industry Leaders

In an open letter to the industry, Black leaders propose a new vision for the industry. Read the letter, and consider the following questions they pose:

  • In general, what are you doing in your own organizations/cities to nurture cultural change as it relates to racism?
  • What steps are you taking to ensure local industry boards, committees, and staff have African American representation and leadership in your office and hospitality community?
  • How are you engaging underserved communities to attract the talent of the future?
  • Are you broadening the conversation for inclusion of young people, activists, community leaders, faith-based groups, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (and other) students?
  • Have you developed a policy for procurement that ensures a percentage of purchases and professional services are from Black and/or minority-owned businesses?
  • How do you engage your stakeholders to participate in co-ops and strategies with Black travel businesses to attract Black visitors to your community? (According to Mandala Research, the economic value of Black travelers has increased in 2018 to $63 billion from $48 billion in 2010.)

Keep Learning

The above resources were shared on Episode 201 of the Destination on the Left podcast. Listen to the interview to hear more about these issues and actionable ideas from tourism and diversity professionals:

Episode 201: The Racial Conversation in Travel and Tourism, with Melissa Cherry and John Percy

We have been exploring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on the podcast all month long. Check out these episodes for more insights and reflections:

Episode 202: Addressing Racism in Travel and Tourism, with Cindy Rodriguez
Episode 200: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Travel and Tourism, with Nicole Mahoney