Events Industry Speaks Out

Events IndustryAs the nation, and world, reels from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the events industry speaks out on systemic racism in the travel industry.

Twenty-one black destination and events industry leaders penned the letter that states, “Recently this country has been experiencing situations and events that have forced us to see everything differently. We have been beseeched by a health pandemic that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings and all but shut down travel as we have known it. Now the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police officers has refocused the world’s awareness of another deadly pandemic; blatant and systemic racism.”

It continues, “We are further saddened by the deafening silence from many of our peers and colleagues in this industry. To paraphrase civil rights activist Eldridge Cleaver, ‘If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.’ Clearly, whether we realize it, admit it, or like it, all of our lives have been impacted and our world has changed. This industry must and will also change. How will be determined by the actions we take now. One thing is for sure, going forward, we can no longer do business as usual.”

The letters stresses the importance of asking questions including:

  • 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 to include 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?

“If our industry is going to emerge as a winner in the travel and tourism game, we encourage you to embrace the philosophy of the late professional tennis player, Althea Gibson, who in 1956 was the first black to win a Grand Slam title. Her motto was: ‘A loser says, ‘It is possible, but it is difficult.’ A winner says, ‘It is difficult, but it is possible.’

We stand ready to do our part to make the possibility of a new, better, highly evolved, inclusive travel industry a reality in 2020 and the years to come. Will you join us?”

The letter is signed by these events industry leaders:

Jason Dunn
Group VP, Diversity Sales & Inclusion Cincinnati USA CVB

Elliott Ferguson President & CEO Destination DC

Robin McClain
SVP, Marketing and Communications Destination DC

Arthur Ayres, Jr.
VP of Finance Discover Philadelphia

Gregory DeShields
PHL Diversity, Executive Director Discover Philadelphia

Dan Williams
VP, Convention Sales & Services Experience Columbus

Angela Nelson
VP of Multicultural Business Development Experience Grand Rapids

Michael Gunn
SVP, Convention Sales and Servicing Greater Birmingham CVB

Connie Kinnard
VP, Multicultural Tourism & Development Greater Miami CVB

Ernest Wooden, Jr.
President & CEO
LA Tourism & Convention Board

Darren Green
SVP, Sales
LA Tourism & Convention Board

Timothy Bush
President & CEO Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou

Cleo Battle
COO
Louisville Tourism

Melvin Tennant President & CEO Meet Minneapolis

Marie Sueing
VP, Multi-Cultural Community Relations Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp

Julie Coker
President & CEO
San Diego Tourism Authority

James Jessie
SVP of Convention Sales & Services Travel Portland

Al Hutchinson President & CEO Visit Baltimore

Charles Jeffers, II COO
Visit Baltimore

Rickey Thigpen President & CEO Visit Jackson

Lorne Edwards
SVP of Sales and Services Visit Phoenix

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