Destinations Make Diversity and Inclusion a Strategic Priority

Convention and visitor bureaus are making diversity and inclusion efforts an integral part of their strategy. Here’s how and why.

As associations continue to expand their diversity and inclusion efforts and make D&I a strategic imperative, so do destinations. These cities want their marketing messages to not only reflect the diversity of their communities but also be welcoming to business and leisure travelers who come from a diverse set of backgrounds and cultures.

We have had successes in securing meetings and events that represent diverse populations, and we see this additional focus as a means to do even more.

Early Adopter

Some destinations were earlier than others in hiring staffers devoted to D&I. Take the Dallas CVB, which was the first in the country to appoint a chief diversity and inclusion officer back in 2012—and is still one of the few CVBs to have a dedicated D&I department.

The bureau hired Cheryl Richards as CDIO because it knew she would play an integral role in the city’s mission to market Dallas as the ideal convention and visitor destination for women, as well as multicultural, multigenerational, and LGBT groups.

“As the fourth-largest metropolitan city in the nation, Dallas offers arts and culture, shopping, dining and night life to all cultures and age groups,” said Bill Boyd, former Dallas CVB Chairman, in the 2012 press release announcing Richards’ new role. “With Cheryl’s leadership, we look forward to building upon the framework of our already established community partnerships, and reflecting the global footprint of Dallas.”

An example of the CVB’s D&I efforts for the American Council of the Blind’s upcoming summer meeting was mentioned in an article posted on earlier this week.

Richards arranged for key people from the city’s hotel association, restaurant association, taxi commission, airport authority, and city hall to meet with ACB’s planner several months out and learn how to accommodate attendees’ safety and comfort while they are in town.

“The planner conducted visual-awareness training for these leaders, who then went back and educated their members,” Richards said. According to the article, the bureau is now working on getting audible pedestrian signals at intersections near all the hotels, plus a temporary guide-dog relief area in a space adjacent to the headquarters hotel.

Recent Efforts

While Dallas has a few years under its belt, other CVBs have either recently started or expanded their D&I strategy.

In March, the Meet Minneapolis Board approved the formation of the Diversity and Multicultural Action Committee and adopted a policy statement on D&I.

According to a blog post announcing DMAC, its objectives are

  • to develop and update a strategic plan to elevate Meet Minneapolis as a leader in diversity and inclusion at the local, national, and international levels
  • to encourage and facilitate diversity and inclusion in the composition of Meet Minneapolis board and staff
  • to encourage adoption of diversity and inclusion as a core value of all Meet Minneapolis partners
  • to ensure that the Minneapolis community is equipped to welcome visitors to the community from all backgrounds
  • to ensure that all Meet Minneapolis sales and marketing messaging accurately reflects the community’s diversity and respectfully speaks to a diverse set of customers and stakeholders.

“We have had successes in securing meetings and events that represent diverse populations, and we see this additional focus as a means to do even more,” said Melvin Tennant, Meet Minneapolis President and CEO.

Cincinnati is another city that has invested in D&I. In 2013, the Cincinnati USA CVB took a leadership role in the industry by establishing an inclusive and measurable Supplier Diversity Program. From purchasing guidelines to membership training, this program had a successful first year, driving spending of more than $300,000 with local women- and minority-owned businesses.

“In today’s business landscape, no organization can afford to become fixed in one way of doing things,” said Delores Hargrove-Young, former board chair, in a 2014 press release. “[T]he CVB’s Supplier Diversity Program has fundamentally changed how we operate as an organization and established Cincinnati USA as a progressive Bureau, deeply committed to incorporating diversity into everyday business practices.” In addition to the Supplier Diversity Program, the also CVB has a multicultural affairs staff team.

For my meeting planner readers, how important are a destination’s diversity and inclusion efforts when deciding whether to hold a meeting there? And for those who work for destinations, what are you doing when it comes to D&I? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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