As calls for social justice ring out around the world, the meetings industry has rallied to the cause. Destinations International (DI) announced an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion CEO Pledge for its member organizations at its virtual CEO summit, held Dec.15-17, and will continue outreach efforts to encourage more organizations to participate. “The CEO Pledge is a critical next step for our industry’s leadership and their commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion on behalf of their organizations,” said Don Welsh, DI’s president and CEO. “Committing to the pledge will allow them to remain competitive, enhance workforce development, drive innovation and be relevant in the years ahead.”
Signing the pledge is an important step for destinations to take, but there is much more work to be done on this front. Here’s how four U.S. cities have recently amplified their inclusivity efforts.
Visit Baltimore, the city’s official destination sales and marketing organization, recently announced a five-year partnership with Guinness Open Gate Brewery to grow the DMO’s Diversity Apprenticeship Program. The initiative seeks out applicants from the Greater Baltimore area who identify as BIPOC or as part of another minority group and offers 600-hour paid apprenticeships with guaranteed employment by Visit Baltimore or a partner organization upon completion. “The partnership will allow us to provide professional growth opportunities to local persons of color and individuals from communities that have historically been underrepresented in the travel and tourism industry,” said Visit Baltimore President and CEO Al Hutchinson. Visit Baltimore also conducted diversity, equity, and inclusion training for the city’s tourism and hospitality leaders throughout 2020 and launched its BoP Pass, which offers deals and discounts to museums and attractions that celebrate African-American history and heritage.
The 2021 African American Travel Conference is set to take place in Louisville, Kentucky, March 30-April 1, and Louisville Tourism ramped up anticipation by inviting delegates to a virtual pre-conference program hosted by Rasheda Ali, daughter of boxer Muhammed Ali. “We really want to come out swinging by introducing AATC attendees to Louisville’s overall brand and especially the new Black Heritage tourism experiences we have been building over the past year in collaboration with some of the city’s iconic attractions,” said Cleo Battle, COO of Louisville Tourism. On Nov. 30, more than 260 delegates heard Ali speak about her father’s impact on the Civil Rights movement and also got a sneak peek at the forthcoming “Truth be Told” exhibit at the city’s Muhammad Ali Center.
Downtown Montgomery, Alabama, is home to landmarks like the First Baptist Church on Ripley Street, where the city’s storied 1955-1956 bus boycott was organized, and the parsonage of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. lived with his family. Montgomery tourism professionals are working together to create a diversity, equity, and inclusion training experience that can be tailored to groups of all sizes. Attendees will visit key downtown sites while engaging in dialogue guided by professional diversity trainers. “In 2021, we will continue to be a must-visit destination offering a purposeful social justice and civil rights education experience for travelers, and we optimistically look forward to safely welcoming them back in the future,” said Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Dawn Hathcock.
When Milwaukee hosted the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Tony Snell, Visit Milwaukee’s volunteer and staffing coordinator, not only provided critical on-the-ground support for the massive undertaking but simultaneously served on the city’s influential Equal Rights Commission, where he was recently appointed vice chair and will serve a second three-year term. “The ERC’s mission is to promote and protect equality, equity, and human rights, through education, enforcement, and community engagement,” Snell said. “As chair I will not only continue the work we have begun, but further enhance our work to ensure that every single Milwaukeean and visitor has the support and opportunities that are necessary to live their best life.”
Kate Mulcrone is a New York City–based freelance writer.