Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: Novenber/December 2013
Publisher's Message
By: Solomon J. Herbert

Over the last several weeks we have heard rumors that a boycott may be launched against San Francisco, one of the most popular destinations in California, if not the entire nation.  If the boycott is in fact initiated, organizers will ask meeting and convention groups to refrain from bringing any business to San Francisco, and for travel agents to do the same.  So the story goes, the boycott is being threatened because the powers that be - both at the CVB and in city government - have all but frozen out participation by African-Americans and other people of color in the city's multi billion dollar hospitality/tourism industry.

I cannot claim any inside knowledge of what has or has not transpired to this point in time.  I do not know all of the arguments and counter arguments that may have been presented by opposing parties to this conflict because I have not been a part of any negotiations and meetings that may have taken place to discuss the pertinent issues fueling the potential boycott. 

But I can tell you what I do know.  I know that I have been to San Francisco on many occasions for both business and pleasure, and I seldom if ever see an African-American working the front desk at a hotel when I check in.  I know that I don't see African-American servers when I attend a banquet in the city, or see CVB representatives - African-American or otherwise - attending conferences of and supporting our industry's two major organizations, the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP) and Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC).  I can't remember ever seeing a Bureau rep at a TPOC conference, and it's been many years since the days of Dianne "DJ" Johnson that the San Francisco CVB as it was called then, was an active participant and somewhat marginal supporter of the Coalition.  Perhaps that will change when the NCBMP meets in Philadelphia in December.  I also know that in our 20 years of publishing, the Bureau has perhaps placed only one or two ads in Black Meetings & Tourism, a direct result of DJ's advocacy on our behalf.

So it's clear to me that San Francisco's tourism officials have done little to ensure that African-Americans and other people of color enjoy the same employment and vendor opportunities that others in the city enjoy.  And the Bureau has been missing in action when it comes to its outreach to the African-American market segment. 

The question is, what to do about it?  Coming out of the Civil Rights Movement, I am not opposed to boycotts, though I feel they should only be used as a last resort.  Sometimes boycotts end up hurting the very people you are trying to represent and protect.  On the other hand, when all else fails, and even the possibility of compromise is nowhere in sight, then you may just have to bite the bullet, go for the boycott, and let the chips fall where they may.

It remains to be seen how this threatened protest will play out.  You can be sure I will have more comments in a future Publisher's Message whether or not the boycott comes to pass.  But in my mind, it raises a larger question that we have posed before, the possible need for a CVB Report Card program.  Such a program would provide both bureaus and planners an ongoing assessment of the destination's efforts in the area of inclusion and diversity, and could possibly be a major deterrent to boycotts in the future.  Should a CVB get a poor rating, for sure there will be some short-term damage, but damage that could be easily corrected.  And once corrected the grade would improve, sending the message that the bureau embraces diversity, inclusion and parity for all people of color. What do you think?

Solomon J. Herbert