Penny Peters is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. She is the Manager at Akwesasne Travel. Penny has been an integral part of the establishment of Akwesasne Travel and furthering the development of the tourism industry in Akwesasne. Penny is currently working to promote Akwesasne Travel through marketing, partnerships, and awareness of indigenous culture. Penny has strong ties to the community, the environment, and traditional ways. Penny believes that indigenous tourism is not only a means of economic growth for communities but also crucial for cultural preservation.
In 2021 Penny was elected to the NYSTIA Board and was excited to represent NY Tourism and the North Country. She has also been advocating for Indigenous tourism, especially within NY State. She hopes to help support indigenous businesses to create mutually beneficial partnerships with non-native entities to grow and strengthen the industry.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Penny Peters about the process of developing tourism for her indigenous nation and the challenges they have faced along the journey. We discuss the tours that Akwesasne Travel has designed, their plans for marketing those programs, and the partnerships they’ve developed. Penny also shares the details of the tour planning process and why it was so important to ensure that her community approved every aspect.
There can be some unexpected challenges around developing a tourist offering as a native community, and one of those things is educating consultants and partners. There can be challenges in connecting with regional tourism offices because of the unique situation of the native people. On the podcast, Penny shares her firm belief that it is vital to keep an open mind and keep having conversations with potential partners. We also discuss the necessity of planning and preparing to develop as a tourist region and why it’s so important to be able to flex when the situation changes.
Penny describes how they began to develop tours in their region, kicking off by getting out in the community, sharing their plans, and asking for feedback on where they wanted visitors to go and what they wanted to share about their culture.
She describes one of their first community initiatives set up at a powwow and where they invited local artisans to start collaborating to build a large traditionally woven basket, and how that gave Penny and her team an opening to talk about their plans to bring tourists to the area and share how it would help the local economy to grow.
Working with other organizations is central to how Akwesasne Travel works — they have recently participated in a reenactment event set in 1784 arranged by a local museum on the Canadian side of the nation to share what life looked like at that time. On the U.S. side, they have a longstanding collaboration in place with the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, which they are planning to expand even further. The Akwesasne nation also shares and collaborates with other indigenous nations to allow visitors an insight into their cultures.
Brand Strategist & Business Growth Accelerator Karley Cunningham takes businesses from overcrowded, competitive spaces out into blue ocean territory where they can confidently stand out and thrive as brand leaders in their sector.
Companies that want to be distinct in their marketplace retain Karley to sharpen their positioning and differentiation strategies to cut through the noise. Karley’s international client-base benefits from accelerated growth, increased profit, and stability as her innovative Surefire Method™ provides them with a sure-fire strategy and toolkit that enables them to charge a premium, attract and retain ideal clients, develop a great company culture, and outpace their competitors.
Having built three successful businesses, Karley knows what it takes to start, develop and lead a company that delivers results. Her entrepreneurial success story is featured in the awarded book: The Widest Net by Pamela Slim. In addition, she’s a sought-after mentor and speaker for national and international business organizations and the host of The Made Possible Podcast.
Believing deeply in the practice of givers gain, she is well-known and networked and rarely goes a day without making a referral or connection. As a former pro athlete, Karley is performance-driven. An avid mountain athlete, she is a two-time finisher of the BC Bike Race, a seven-day, 325 km mountain bike stage race, and is always looking out for her next trail running adventure. When not focusing on the business or expanding her network, she can be found somewhere in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest with her wife and dog in their 4×4.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Karley Cunningham about how branding can help a destination, attraction, or business in the tourism industry stand out from the crowd. Karley breaks creating your brand down into three simple sections — uncovering our fundamental beliefs, understanding the markets we serve, and showcasing our differentiators.
As creatives, we constantly push the boundaries, but when the boundaries shrink, we’re forced to think more creatively than ever about the challenges we face. When defining their brand destinations, services, and businesses need to reflect on their ‘why’ to pin down what makes them unique.
Karley joins us on the podcast to discuss how to peel back the layers to understand what’s different about your offering because amazing branding is about the nuances. She describes the process as going fishing — if you drop the line and then go deeper and deeper and deeper, you’ll eventually hook on to something special.
Karley explores why it’s essential to start from the inside out when developing your brand. She shares her insights on why it’s all about being authentic as people when you’re creating a company brand. Karley also discusses how she helps businesses who have moved away from their true purpose to pivot back to their axis and reinvigorate them. When your brand story comes from the inside out and is genuinely driven by your purpose, who you are, the things that resonate with you, and how you show up in the world, it creates an innate sense of alignment and power.
Recruiting and retaining employees is a huge struggle in the travel and tourism industry right now. Karley gives her perspective on whether the current staffing challenges relate to how valued and cared for people felt before the pandemic and how that relates to standing behind your brand values.
On the show, we discuss how to solve the problem of recruitment and retention, and Karley gives her advice on how branding can help businesses in that regard. She shares how your brand ties into your promise to your staff in terms of supporting them in their everyday roles and challenging situations. Karley outlines why the key question in reframing the retention issues is, are you willing to deliver your staff the quality that you deliver your guests or service users?
Sophia Hyder Hock is the Chief Diversity Officer for Destinations International. In this role, Sophia provides thought leadership and strategic direction for designing and implementing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) resources, tools, and services for association members and the broader tourism industry.
Sophia has created sustainable social inclusion frameworks for over 20 years. Prior to joining Destinations International, she was the Founder and CEO of Papilia, an organization dedicated to developing tailored EDI strategies, training, and coaching services for the travel industry. She has extensive experience as an international development practitioner working around the world on economic development, gender empowerment, and workforce development projects.
Sophia is on the Board of the Center for Responsible Tourism (CREST). She is a yoga and meditation instructor and has written for numerous travel publications about diverse representation, family travel, and wellness. Her love for travel started at the age of 10 when she moved from California to Sri Lanka. Since then, Sophia has been to 40+ countries and plans to inspire her toddler to be a citizen of the world through mindful travel and learning about his Bengali-American heritage.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Sophia Hyder Park, Chief Diversity Officer for Destinations International. Sophia shares how her work in international development led to her current role in the travel and tourism industry, and her insights make Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion approachable, doable, and human. We discuss how organizations can get started with EDI, including taking the key step of understanding your foundation, being curious, and creating spaces of welcoming and belonging within our destinations.
Sophia discusses her vision of coming at DEI as being a three-part series. She shares why it is critical first to assess internal systems to ensure that a business is strong internally from an EDI perspective. The second part of the series is embedding DEI into the departmental verticals, and the third piece is fostering engagement from membership and partners.
Holding one another accountable is an important aspect of DEI, which is why Sophia is currently working with Destinations International’s members on first understanding, then collecting best practices and case studies. This initial work will provide her with the information she needs in order to create the resources and services their members are looking for.
Sophia describes how she embeds thought leadership into her professional mindset and why in building a strong foundation, we have to both reflect on our own behavior and the behavior of our organization. Your ethos then inspires your audience.
As organizations in the travel and tourism industry, we should be trying to get a broader understanding of who’s missing and defining how we can be more inclusive. Sophia also notes the importance of building trust and acting with intentionality to authentically collaborate and engage.
Awareness and curiosity are the keys to embracing the many different cultural nuances that exist, not only in the United States but internationally. To incorporate the principles of DEI, we need to do some homework to understand the cultural history of a place. Part of our responsibility is to listen and seek ways to connect with other humans.
Hannah DeMaio is the Vice President of Brand Strategy of Women Leading Travel & Hospitality, the sister community to Women in Retail Leadership Circle. Women Leading Travel & Hospitality is a unique, members-only networking group that offers executive women in the travel and hospitality industry a place to learn, connect, and grow through an unparalleled mix of events, content, and elite connections. The community is comprised of successful and motivated women across the entire travel and hospitality ecosystem who have a strong belief that investing in themselves and other women is good business. She is passionate about the travel and hospitality industry and uniting, inspiring, motivating, and empowering women to succeed personally and professionally.
In her free time, Hannah loves traveling, playing tennis, hiking, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her family and dog, Lulu!
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Hannah DeMaio all about the personal and professional development of women leaders in the travel, hospitality, and retail industries. She shared her findings that although women hold around 80% of the managerial roles in travel and hospitality businesses, they only make up 20% of the workforce at the director level, and that number drops even further when you get up to the C Suite. Hannah discusses why she is so inspired to champion all the incredible women in the travel and tourism space and empower them to get them to go as far as they want to in their careers.
Hannah describes the organization’s initial pivot in the face of COVID-19 and why they decided to focus their efforts on supporting women to lead effectively through the crisis. Their programming included keeping your teams motivated, how to get through the furlough period, and crucially how to stay connected with your teams when working virtually.
Women Leading Travel and Hospitality initially launched virtual events and instigated weekly peer group calls to build a strong community. When the organization officially launched in January 2021, they continued with virtual and in-person events discussing some of the problems women in the travel and tourism industry are having, how to fix them, and how to grow.
Women Leading Travel and Hospitality want to emphasize that they are a group for everyone. The travel and hospitality space often feels like a male-dominated space, and as part of their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, they work towards making both their speakers and their audience diverse.
There is a lot of work to be done in the travel and hospitality space in regard to DEI and Women Leading Travel and Hospitality have recently appointed a Head of Diversity onto their advisory board to ensure they continue moving in the right direction.
On a professional level having those hard conversations about how women can move from the managerial level to director level by having the help and support of mentors is incredibly useful. But Hannah and her organization are also bringing in the personal growth aspect too.
You have to be on top of both the personal and the professional to be a well-balanced leader. Hannah describes why their programming includes wellness advice in addition to career coaching and how bringing the two together impacts women’s work-life harmony.
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.