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Industry Briefs
Solomon J. Herbert

I have reached out to leaders of four highly respected industry organization for their views on the current efforts (or lack thereof) to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the travel, meetings and hospitality arena.  I have included their comments in a feature story that you will find in in the May/June issue of Black Meetings & Tourism entitled " Are Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Still a Priority: Major Industry Organizations Report."

The associations referenced above are the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP), Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC), National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), and Meeting Professional International (MPI).   The responses to my questions offer insight into the degree of DEI that our industry has embraced, and makes it crystal clear that while some progress has been made, there is much more that is needed to achieve true parity.

This is evident by simply examining the historical facts about our industry.  For example, Melvin Tennant became the first African-American to head up a convention & visitors bureau in the early1990s when he ascended to the position of president/CEO in Oakland., CA.   That was roughly 30 years ago.  Today there are 11 African-Americans heading up Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs).   Sure that is progress, but when you consider there are more than 700 domestic DMOs, that puts things into a strikingly different perspective!   When you do a little research to discover who are holding other senior level executive positions at CVBs across the nation, you see very few if any black or brown faces in the mix.   And only one of the 50 state departments of tourism is headed by an African-American. Unfortunately, the picture isn't any better when you examine the hotel, airline and cruise segments.

I, as I'm sure many of you, have been involved in initiatives and sat on committees aimed at correcting the lack of diversity in our industry.  And while all of these programs have been well intentioned, most have had little or no impact.   The only one I participated in that I believe had a measureable effect was the NAACP Lodging Industry Report Card. Hotel companies were rated on the inclusiveness of their hiring policies, promotional records, diversity of suppliers and vendors, and philanthropic efforts with organizations of color.   Sadly, most of the major brands received poor or failing grades.   Only one - Marriott - even had a diversity officer at the time.  And though the numerous brands took immediate steps in response to the dismal ratings to improve their image in the multicultural marketplace, this was short lived.   Once the report cards were discontinued, all the brands went back to business as usual, and the diversity vendor opportunities, minority promotions, advertising in Black-owned Media, and philanthropic efforts, were quickly halted.

So the time is right for programs to promote and support diversity, equity and inclusion, despite the efforts of some elected officials to ban anything resembling affirmative action.  It will take more than acknowledging the problem to alter this picture.   Industry leaders must take strong measures to bring about the changes needed to level the playing field.

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