In the final episode of the Travel Unity Summit, we ask seven leaders in the travel and tourism industry to share their thoughts on how the travel industry can make an impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the travel and tourism space. We’re hearing so many amazing and enlightening conversations going on around us from a wide range of travel professionals who are doing some deep dives on DEI and why it’s vital to our industry.
On this show, our guests share with Rhonda their thoughts on the importance of community engagement in DEI. They discuss how authentic DEI messaging runs through the art of a community and acts as a visual reminder that many individuals and cultures make up a community. Our guests also share their experiences of bridging gaps in diverse communities and why data plays such a critical role in DEI.
We welcome seven inspirational guests onto the podcast to dig into what steps their organization is taking to make an impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Travel Unity Summit has brought together a diverse range of travel professionals who are all committed to acting to incorporate the principles into their businesses and communities.
Melissa Cherry, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Miles Partnership
We can make an impact on DEI in the travel industry when we’re dedicated to making a difference long term. Melissa describes why we should focus on moving forward through authentic community engagement as an industry. You have to truly evolve accessibility, fully commit to it, and live and breathe it operationally to get to a place where your destination or organization is truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive for residents and visitors alike.
Renee Areng, Executive Director and CEO at Explore Brookhaven
Renee explains why the Travel Unity Summit is an excellent place for individuals in the travel and tourism industry to learn what’s working in other destinations to put their own spin on DEI strategies and apply them in their own backyard. She shares why recognizing the historical impacts of all cultures and races in our destinations allows you to tell the authentic story of a destination. Renee also highlights the work Explore Brookhaven has been doing with local artists in their destination to showcase how the visual arts can help diversity messaging and engage visitors.
Rich Kenah, CEO of Atlanta Track Club
Rich Kenah explains why Atlanta Track Club looks at DEI from both internal and external perspectives. They are committed to impacting health and wellness through running and walking and believe that the only way they will achieve their vision is if they are universally accessible. He describes their recent internal DEI audit and subsequent six-month series of educational sessions on the topic of DEI for staff and how those team activities help them to deliver accessible community-facing activities.
Roni Weiss, Executive Director of Travel Unity
The travel industry can make an impact on DEI by being more thoughtful and deliberate about the work they do, according to Roni. He describes why we need to go beyond hope without action by doing the strategic planning that enables organizations to effect real change. Roni also explains why you have to make decisions based on your goals for change, pivot into a position where you’re aligning with those goals, and be specific about how you’re going to achieve them.
Sherilyn Fortson, Economic Development Director for the City of Brookhaven
Sherilyn describes what her team did when they recognized that they didn’t have sufficient synergy or collaboration with their highest minority demographic, the Hispanic community. She shares the steps they took to connect with local organizations, put forward partnership opportunities, and above all, listen so that they could bridge the gap between city government and minority communities.
Wes Espinosa, Director of Development and Partnerships for the Center for Responsible Travel
Wes shares the numerous steps the Center for Responsible Travel is taking to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to their organization. He gives a brief overview of why they are hyper-focused on interdisciplinary applied research, which they make free and accessible to all. He also shares why they are currently diving deep into the concept of destination stewardship — managing rather than just marketing it — and how to make it a collective action that gives stakeholders from all sectors of society a seat at the table.
Zoe Moore, Hospitality Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Consultant for Moore Consulting Agency
From Zoe’s perspective, as an industry, our impact comes as being the thought leaders in DEI, not only because what we do is so visible, but because we are a microcosm of society in many ways. The travel industry should be leading by example and using all the available data to pin down who we’re serving as an organization so we can provide better service across all social identities.
Thank you so much for listening to the third episode of our special three-part series from the Travel Unity Summit. A key lesson that has come out of discussions is the need to build relationships and establish trust in communities so we can bridge the gaps in DEI.
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