Travel, Tourism, Vacation

We all know that 2020 was a year of extraordinary challenges. But through a series of additional challenges – budget cuts, global elections, social unrest and injustices, natural disasters – compounded by a global pandemic, our world has completely changed. The status quo no longer exists and we all need to look to solutions for a post-pandemic recovery.

And of course, in Spring 2020 with the deaths of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor and Amuad Arbrey, the conversations around equity, diversity and inclusion accelerated in ways our society has never openly and honestly addressed. We have all witnessed how everyone is not treated equally, that privilege to access and resources exists, and that voices are not always respected or even heard.

At that same moment, the tourism industry, along with the rest of the world, had to pause and ask ourselves why have we not been able to address these hard conversations, and what do we need to do to advance our thinking of what this means to implement action to move our industry forward?

As the global trade association for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and tourism boards in 15 countries globally, Destinations International recognizes the importance of cultivating a unified tourism industry. We know it will be critical for destination organization leaders to embrace the role that equity, diversity and inclusion will play to move our industry forward, especially at a time when our industry must face one of the most challenging moments in modern history – recovering from the devastating impact of COVID-19. Through the recent release of a Strategic Roadmap for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, we have laid out initiatives and opportunities that will be imperative to enable structural social change for all of our members’ communities.

One the most common reasons these efforts fail, is due to the lack of commitment and support of leadership. To date, over 250 destination organization executive leaders and CEOs have signed our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion CEO Pledge. Industry professionals must acknowledge their role as fundamental changemakers and commit to doing the work first before asking the same of others. Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s official DMO, was among one of the first executive leaders to sign this pledge and has committed to making equity, diversity and inclusion a priority for Puerto Rico.

Recently, I had the pleasure to join the team by Zoom to discuss the critical role equity, diversity and inclusion plays for our industry. The most refreshing take away was looking across the screen to see women in leadership roles, and faces of varied age, experience and ethnic and cultural diversity.

The Discover Puerto Rico team is deeply connected to their community. The organization understands the power of diversity and different perspectives within the community and workforce. They understand that inclusivity and diversity is critical to foster innovation and are committed to being the brand stewards of Puerto Rico to ultimately cultivate current and future residents, businesses and visitors.

There have been countless published reports that further supports that diverse and inclusive teams tend to be more creative and innovative than teams who have similar demographic structures by bringing different experiences, perspectives and approaches to solving day-to-day business challenges. The “2020 Diversity Wins” report by McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for both gender and ethnic diversity are 12 percent more likely to outperform all other companies in the data set. Diverse teams are also better equipped to target and serve diverse customer markets, such as women, ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ communities that currently represent an increasing share of consumer purchase power that is often overlooked or not leveraged.

At the end of the day, equity, diversity and inclusion is a long-term commitment. Destinations must push towards inclusive and equitable marketing practices that are essential to tourism marketing and destination brand stewardship. Destination organizations must evolve destination promotion practices to be welcoming and hospitable to all audiences to remain competitive and relevant. They must push for inclusive and equitable marketing practices that prioritize community partnerships, contributions and authentic experiences.

Destinations International encourages destination organizations to share experiences of their destination’s history, character and culture and grow an inclusive and equitable workforce that reflects the level of diversity we wish to welcome to our destinations. In today’s global economy, every community must compete with every other for its share of the world’s visibility and tourists. Those destinations who fail to compete, those who fail to implement equity, diversity and inclusion best practices, will be left behind.

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