Right now, more than ever, planners need to know where destinations stand on social issues. For Columbus, the answer is straightforward — the city stands in solidarity with Black and minority communities. As demonstrations have rippled through the country in recent months, Experience Columbus has taken decisive actions to communicate that message, including signing a petition asking the city to declare racism a public health crisis and publishing a statement re-affirming the city’s stance against racial injustice.
In July, Experience Columbus’ Vice President of Sales and Services Dan Williams and 20 other African-American CVB executives issued an open letter to the industry that called for greater institutional change, from wider equity in leadership positions to increased patronage of Black- and minority-owned communities and businesses. “Black people are tired, and we’re at the brink,” Williams said in a recent video, “Five Questions About Race, Answered by Black Tourism Professionals,” which premiered during Destinations International’s most recent annual convention. “We need to be able to express ourselves,” Williams said, “and we need people who are non-Black to just listen and have that understanding.”
For planners like Deborah Young, CEM, CMP, assistant executive director of conferences and exhibits for the National Association of Elementary School Principals, a destination taking action has significant meaning. “Many formal statements have recently come out about the recent acts of racial violence and injustice and representing solidarity and support,” she said in an e-mail to the DMO. “Thank you for articulating actions’ Experience Columbus plans to take to confirm that Black lives do indeed matter. Your statement indicates a clear stance and affirmation of declaring racism a public health crisis.”
All Are Welcome
For Columbus, allyship means that all are welcome, and for groups that equates to a meeting destination with a collaborative, forward-thinking approach and an eagerness to stand up for what matters. Whether it’s to support minority-owned businesses or incorporate volunteer opportunities into a meeting program, Experience Columbus offers resources for groups seeking to deepen connections with local communities.
Columbus also has contributed to strides made in accessibility. In 2016, the city won a grant from the Department of Transportation to explore the how to provide equal access to local transportation. One of the end results, the Wayfinder app, was created in collaboration between The Ohio State University, Central Ohio Transit Authority, and Smart Columbus. Sponsored by the Mobility Assistance for People with Cognitive Disabilities pilot, the app gives step-by-step instructions for walking, driving, or bus routes customized to the user’s ability.