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A Collective Effort to Address Racism

If executive buy-in is any indicator, the new Tourism Diversity Matters organization has a huge chance of making a difference in the travel and events industry.

Tourism Diversity Matters, a new organization focused on fostering diversity and inclusion in the travel, tourism, and events industry, launched February 1. Its founding partners—Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, ConferenceDirect Foundation, and SearchWide Global—have put together an inaugural 22-person board of directors that reads like a Who’s Who of industry leaders, including executives from the Events Industry Council, the Professional Convention Management Association, Meeting Professionals International, IMEX, Freeman, and others.

The collaboration reflects a more centralized and far-reaching approach to inclusivity than the industry has seen in the past. “Addressing racism should impact how you lead—it’s an American issue,” commented Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO at Destination DC and chairman of the Tourism Diversity Matters board. “As many are confronting these issues for the first time, we can’t turn a blind eye and we can’t turn back. The pandemic has forced us to slow down and focus on being human. We need to be comfortable with uncomfortable conversations and having these discussions not only at home, but also in the workplace.”

TDM will be executing on its goal of a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive industry under four key pillars: apprenticeships, workforce development, DEI training, and research.

The TDM apprenticeship program is already up and running. Initially developed by SearchWide Global in partnership with Destinations International and the International Association of Venue Managers, the program provides hands-on work experience to ethnically diverse applicants in three career tracks: meetings and events, destination hospitality, and sports.

For the workforce development pillar, TDM will collect case studies and best practices to share with the industry. These will focus on individual competencies as well as organizational issues such as recruitment practices and succession planning methods that encourage diverse leadership. “We envision TDM as a repository for these important resources,” a spokesperson for the organization said.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is TDM’s third pillar, and the organization is planning to curate suggested training modules for the tourism and meetings communities. It hopes to have these resources available by late summer. The research pillar is “an important component and a priority for TDM and its Board of Directors,” though research topics and a research partner have not yet been identified.

TDM’s inaugural board includes:
• Dr. Brandi Baldwin, CEO, Millennial Ventures Holdings
• Debra Blair, director of organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion, Temple University School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management
• Ray Bloom, chairman, IMEX
• Cathy Breden, CAE, CMP, CEM, executive vice president and COO, International Association of Exhibitions & Events
• Amy Calvert, CEO, Events Industry Council
• Gregg Caren, President and CEO, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau

• Mark Cooper, CEO, International Association of Conference Centers; and chairman, EIC
• Melissa Cherry, COO, Destinations International
• Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association
• Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line
• Mike Gamble, president and CEO, SearchWide Global
• Al Hutchinson, president and CEO, Visit Baltimore
• Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO, PCMA
• Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE, CQIA, president and CEO, Association Forum
• Brad Mayne, president and CEO, International Association of Venue Managers
• Lynette Montoya, president and CEO, Latino Hotel Association
• Carrie Freeman Parsons, chair, Freeman
• Leah Smiley, president, Society for Diversity Inc.
• Brian Stevens, CEO, ConferenceDirect
• Paul VanDeventer, president and CEO, MPI
• Telesa Via, vice president, sales, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
• Carl Winston, director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, San Diego State University


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