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Industry Briefs

Destinations International (DI) held their 2021 Annual Convention in Baltimore July 13-15 at the Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor Hotel and the spectacular Baltimore Convention Center.   The event was preceded a media fam on July 12 sponsored by Visit Baltimore and headquartered at the brand new Canopy Hilton Baltimore Harbor Points, which came on line in late 2020.   VB President/CEO Al Hutchinson and his team did an outstanding job to make sure that fam participants had an enjoyable and productive experience in Charm City.


The fam began with a tour of the storied Sagamore Pendry Baltimore on Baltimore's historic Recreation Pier.   The property, built in 1914, embodies the city's rich history, vibrant personality and idyllic harbor setting, and offers the perfect environment for your unique and memorable meeting.   While the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore has been restored to former glory, it has also been infused with a modern-day sensibility and aesthetic that speaks to todays guest.   In addition to scrumptious meals at some of Baltimore's top eateries, like The Choptank, Cindy Lou's Fish House and the R. House, the fam included a City Tour and a tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where DI's opening reception was held.


The convention's hybrid format allowed for in-person attendance of more than 800, and access to most, though not all activities and workshops for virtual delegates.  Presentations ran the gamut from keynotes like "Why an Inclusive Economy Matters" by Wes Moore, to workshops entitled

Elliott Ferguson (L) and Greg DeShieldss

"The Black CVB Leaders Open Letter to the Industry," which provided an overview of where the leaders stand today, the outcomes of the letter, and the challenges and opportunities that have presented themselves in the past year, with an emphasis on how the letter affected change around how destination leaders think about and ensure equity, diversity and inclusion within their organizations.   The facilitator for this session was Greg DeShields, executive director of PHL Diversity Matters, who engaged in a thought-provoking discussion with Elliott Ferguson, president/CEO of Destination DC.


A series of sessions designed exclusively for the virtual audience were also offered, including "Channel Planning and the New Media Math for DMOs,"  "Travel Recovery Trend Report," and "People-First Destination Stewardship: A Permatourism Approach." Other session topics for both in-person and virtual included "Leading your Destination Organization With Analytics, presented by Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, "Leveraging Up Sports Tourism in College and University Towns," offered by Jennifer Stoll of Research & Education SportsETA, Linda Shetina Logan, executive director of Greater Columbus Sport Commission, and Mike Price, executive director of Greater Lansing Sport Authority.

Al Hutchinson (L) and Don Welsh

Don Welsh , president of Destinations International, and Al Hutchinson are to be commended for the outstanding collaboration they pulled off to present this much-anticipated convention during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic.   Because of their hard work and that of their respective teams, attendees were energized, educated and inspired to head back home with a new and improved toolkit to help bring travel and tourism back better than ever.


Elliott Ferguson receiving a ward, flanked by Christopher Thompson (L) and Don Welsh

Ferguson, this year's recipient of the Destination Organization Leadership Award, is a 30-year veteran of the travel and hospitality industry, and leads DDC's efforts to generate economic opportunity for the District through meetings and tourism, overseeing the organization's convention and tourism sales, marketing, finance and business development operations.

The Destination Organization Leadership Award was created in 2017 and is amongst the association's most prestigious honors, recognizing those outstanding individuals who, through their exceptional work and achievements, have made a significant contribution to the destination marketing industry and a profound difference in the communities they serve.


One of the highlights of the convention was the Family Leadership Gathering of African-American industry executives who were attending DI that was held on Wednesday, July 14 at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel.   The purpose of this event was to encourage dialogue between Black industry reps to deal with topics of common concern, encourage unified efforts to address issues of inclusion, equity and diversity, and provide ongoing networking opportunities for career advancement.  

Twenty-eight leaders attended the event, including five of the industry's eight CVB

presidents - Elliot Ferguson (Destination DC), Al Hutchinson (Visit Baltimore), Bennish Brown (Visit Augusta), Patricia Washington (Visit Alexandria), and Rickey Thigpen (Visit Jackson).   Also present at the gathering were Charles Jeffers, recently appointed CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Jason Dunn, Chairman Emeritus of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals and Group Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Cincinnati USA CVB, Karin Aaron, former President/CEO of the Greater Newark CVB and Managing Partner, KKD Tourism Advisors, Juan Webster, General Manager of the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore hotel, and Solomon and Gloria Herbert, Publishers/Editors at Black Meetings & Tourism Media, among other prominent industry execs.

"We are honored that our peers acknowledged Gloria and me for the work we have done these past nearly 30 years showcasing the contributions and accomplishments of African-Americans in the travel/meetings/hospitality industry," said Solomon Herbert.  "We are very proud of the example our colleagues have set for excellence and resilience and look forward to continued collaboration with them in the future."

Added Gloria Herbert, "The remarkable response that has resulted from the recent questions regarding inclusion, equity and diversity clearly demonstrates that Travel/Tourism/Hospitality could well benefit from a structured organization of 
Industry Executives of Color, focused on education, networking and mentoring. This group represents the basis for building that type of platform."

In addition to the workshops and keynotes, DI held a Baltimore Food Drive program where destination professionals volunteered to fill food drive bags to support local Baltimore hospitality workers who w ere impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The closing keynote presentation was made by Kevin Brown, whose unconventional path to business and personal success taught him that winning in business and in life requires anything but conventional thinking.   The message of his address, sponsored by Brand USA, was to help people and organizations embrace a simple philosophy that separates world-class organizations and high-performance people from everybody else.   This was followed by Destination Celebration, a closing event at the Baltimore Museum of Industry that was held where conference attendees networked with and celebrated DI leaders and honorees from across the industry including Hall of Fame, Destination Organization Leadership Award, 30 Under 30, CDME and DMAP

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