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Industry Briefs
KATRINA’S CORNER - THE VERDICT IS IN…

It's hard to believe that half of 2018 is behind us.  On this 191 st day of 2018, I have been on the road 97 of those days this year (over half).  It is startling.  As I reflect on the faces I have seen in my travels, worldwide, from pilots and flight attendants, airport personnel and hotel staff, all the way to the convention center management, there is a severe lack of African-American and diverse faces.  I can comfortably say that I have encountered ZERO Black executives along my way.  The verdict is in: there are way too few "minorities" represented in the travel and tourism industry.

The lack of diversity is alarming, especially when considering the amount of money that minorities spend on travel and tourism annually.  I believe we have become conditioned to accepting the lack of diverse faces like ours as we explore our world.

I believe a significant part of the problem is the lack of interest and understanding of the travel industry among people of color.  As a small child I can remember adults asking, what do you want to be when you grow up?  My go-to answer was always, a teacher.  This was likely because teachers were the only individuals I interacted with outside of my immediate family.  A Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) never crossed my mind as an option.  I fell into the industry by accident and yet truly have found my passion.  

I have been in event management for the past 28 years.  I have explored many corners of the world from Brussels, Belgium to Paducah, Kentucky and many destinations in between.  Part of my job is to understand the nuances of 5-star hotels, craft fine wine pairings, and to discover authentic opportunities to contribute to the communities in which I work.  I find the work truly rewarding and I have yet to become tired of or bored with the travel.  For those who are interested in such a lifestyle, work in the travel and meetings management industry is a viable option.  An employee of Forums Meetings & Events has a face book post illustrating her sailing away on a catamaran with the caption, "I'm at work."   I want that same opportunity for many more young men and women.

In an attempt to close the gap between our knowledge of this exciting industry and the minorities that choose it as a career option, (bi)Black Meetings & Tourism(ebi) magazine is kicking off a nationwide mentoring program "Building Diversity in the Travel Industry."  No lines or gimmicks, it is a true representation of their intentions.  Their team is currently seeking two mentors and mentees from each state for this one-of-a-kind, nationwide program.  The mentors have a prescribed plan that will guide their youth mentee on to experiences and an understanding in the travel industry.  The program will kick off this fall and continue to gain participants for a year until they unveil all 100 of their mentees during the 2019 Congressional Black Caucus.   Please join the BM&T team at www.bmtchampions.com.

For those wishing to consider meetings, travel and tourism as a career option, I invite you to reach out to me directly: Katrina.ruff@forumsmeetings.com.  I am delighted to give you any information I have, point you in the right direction, or pair you up with one of the Forums team.

Many four-year colleges now offer a hospitality degree program.  I am happy to see the change, and hope to be a catalyst for more young minorities to consider this profession that I love.  No longer should we think of ourselves as the maid, but hotel executive management.  We are not bound to the catering team; we can be bright brilliant meeting planners.  We must let the likes of Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corporation lead the way.  We must consider Julie Coker Graham who serves as president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Respectfully, we follow Solomon and Gloria Herbert who have tirelessly worked to hold the community of African-American travel & tourism together for more than 25 years.

All in all, I believe that exposure to the travel industry and experience traveling will lead a new generation to the love of travel, tourism and meetings management as a career. 


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