All Inclusive Bishop T.D. Jakes (center) is bringing his MegaFest religious conference to Dallas this August.
In November, the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau appointed Cheryl Richards to the newly created position of chief diversity and inclusion officer — becoming the first DMO in the country to elevate a diversity-related position to the chief officer level, according to Dallas CVB President and CEO Phillip Jones.
Part of the CVB's mission, Jones said, is to market Dallas as an ideal convention and visitor destination for women, multicultural, multigenerational, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) groups. According to CNBC.com, Dallas qualifies as the sixth most diverse city in the nation, Jones said, with 30 percent of the population being Latino and 15 being percent African American. “As one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country, Dallas is uniquely positioned to understand the needs of this market.”
Recently, Convene talked with Jones and Richards to find out more about Dallas' new diversity chief — and what she'll bring to the Big D.
What was the impetus for appointing a chief diversity and inclusion officer?
Phillip Jones Diversity and inclusion is about creating collaborative connections for the Dallas CVB. As we move into the future and live in a world of constant change, we recognize that to continue to be relevant in the marketplace, we have to elevate our approach to inclusiveness, to help us reach a point of delivering a customized destination experience.
What makes Cheryl Richards the right person for this position?
Jones As a 24-year veteran of the Dallas CVB, Cheryl Richards understands our industry and is a leader in the DMO space. We knew that with the guidance of Hattie Hill — today's leading consultant in global diversity — Cheryl could learn the technical aspects of diversity and inclusion. She is a proven performer and has been instrumental in broadening the bureau's base of community and corporate support. Her expertise will be invaluable in attracting diverse conventions to Dallas and in achieving our goal of becoming a top leisure and meeting destination nationwide.
How will this position operate with regard to the Dallas CVB's other activities?
Cheryl Richards The strategic vision for this role is to focus on inspirational leadership, sustained customer engagement, and innovative partnerships. We plan to use this role to do those three things for the Dallas CVB, and expect that we will see an increase in the number of diverse organizations that consider Dallas. Nationally, we would like to help other DMOs adopt this model, and be a leader in elevating our business as the world rapidly changes and demands this kind of focused approach to diversity.
Have you seen a interest from diverse groups since the position was created?
Jones We have several diverse groups and events booked. Some of the notable ones are MegaFest with TD Jakes Enterprises, eWomenNetwork, Mary Kay, Blacks in Government, Women's Foodservice Forum, and the League of Women Voters.
What tactics will you use to attract more such groups?
Richards The key to what we are trying to do is customization. Our approach is to deliver relevant content and information. We need to diversify our materials to attract a more diverse segment of groups and associations. The idea behind inclusiveness is learning and knowing more about these groups. We are no longer going to assume we know their wants and needs. We are going to work with them to design packages and programs that truly exceed their expectations.
Dallas isn't the only city making diversity its business. The Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress is a division of the Philadelphia CVB that's dedicated to “increase[ing] Philadelphia's share of the multicultural meetings and tourism markets.” To learn more, visit philadelphiamac.org.