Biweekly Update, June 12, 2020

Greetings and I hope this note finds you well.

As I believe most of you know, for the past four years, we have used this newsletter to communicate the many activities taking place around the world in our industry.

However, today's newsletter will be focused on one topic. There are significant moments in time when major world events or personal experiences frame our thinking and play a role in shaping our lives. I believe the tragic murder of George Floyd was one of those moments. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery as well as the many other Black people who have suffered from senseless acts of violence, have brought to light the many centuries of systemic racism in the U.S. and around the world.

Destinations International stands in solidarity with the Black community against racism, social injustice and racial inequalities. Public gatherings and the freedom to protest injustices have been a proven way of addressing some of the most complex and challenging issues we all face as a society. We applaud the peaceful protests that occurred around the world to expose racial inequities and injustices. We believe there comes a time when change can occur because the world is listening and demanding action to correct these issues that should have never had a place in our society. We are committed to working for equality and social justice and will commit to being a leader to work with our industry for change.

Destinations International also recognizes the importance of cultivating a tourism industry that represents a wide variety of individuals at all levels, celebrating the broad range of human differences among us, while embracing the commonalities we share. We are committed to driving conversations about racism in all areas of our organization and amongst our membership.

For the past few years, we have spent considerable time and resources to help our industry develop actionable diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. I think we all know that diversity, equity and inclusion is a continuum and there is no end game to this vitally important work. Earlier this morning, we convened the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force members to readdress our work to-date. This was a passionate, emotional and progressive call on how our industry can truly be the catalyst for change not only in the U.S. but around the world. I believe as a result of the task force, led by Kellie Henderson, Senior Vice President of SearchWide Global, Al Hutchinson, President and CEO of Visit Baltimore and John Percy, CDME, President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA, and the professional counsel from the Ladipo Group, we will continue to make progress.

This week, many of you received an open letter signed by 21 Black industry leaders sharing a new vision for the travel and tourism industry and encouraging dialogue around racism. If you have not had the opportunity to read this letter, we encourage you to take some time to read it here and share it with your team. The questions the letter points out are ones we should take into consideration.

  • In general, 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? (According to Mandala Research, the economic value of Black travelers has increased in 2018 to $63 billion from $48 billion in 2010.)
  • Do your print, digital, website, POS materials represent the faces of your community and the traveling public?

We urge you and your team to recognize the urgent need for change and to listen and have conversations with one another. When we openly listen and embrace new ideas, progress and healing can begin. 

On that note, the U.S. Travel Association hosted its "Leading by Example: Lessons in Race and Antiracism" webinar led by Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC, which included a candid conversation with Michelle Mason, President and CEO of Association Forum, Ernie Wooden, President and CEO of the LA Tourism and Convention Board and Brandon Meyers, Chief Revenue Officer of ADARA. As Roger Dow, President and CEO of U.S. Travel stated in a recent newsletter, "This incredibly important conversation illuminated the issues we must address and showed us how far we have to go to achieve racial equality, both in our industry and our country—and steps we can take to get there." We urge you to please take an hour out of your day to listen to this webinar recording if you were not able to join the live event. You may click here to watch.

I was also encouraged last week with a phone call arranged by Karen Williams, President and CEO of Louisville Tourism with Louisville, KY Mayor Greg Fischer, Roger Dow, Sheriff Karamat, President and CEO of PCMA, Elliott Ferguson and myself. On the call, Mayor Fischer, the incoming chair of the United States Conference of Mayors, pledged his support in making equity, diversity and inclusion a key priority during his tenure. We are hoping that we can align these initiatives with other local and federal governments around the world to carry on this work.

In closing, there is much work to do, and as an industry, we must all individually commit to advance these dialogues and drive solutions. On behalf of the entire team, we are fully committed to continuing to listen, learn and engage in conversations and working with our members and partners in our industry to be a catalyst for change.


Don Welsh signature

Don Welsh
President & CEO

Destinations International