A group of Black executives from destination marketing organisations in the US have shared their experiences of race and racism and called for an “open dialogue” on the subject within the tourism industry.
Their stories were shown in a video entitled 5 Questions About Race, which premiered this week at Destinations International’s 2020 annual conference.
Running at eight minutes and 38 seconds, the film takes less time to watch than the eight minutes and 46 seconds a police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, leading to his death in Minneapolis on 25 May.
“As a Black professional who has worked hard to be in a position of leadership in my industry, I have experienced and seen my share of racial inequality,” said Cleo Battle, chief operating officer, Louisville Tourism.
“The time is now to make changes in our industry for the future and I proudly join my colleagues in helping to lead the conversation forward.”
“There are a few reactions as this public conversation continues: some people are concerned; some don’t know what to say; some are scared; and some, unfortunately, will remain ignorant,” said Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and chief executive of Destination DC.
“But these are discussions we need to have and then follow them with action if we are to effect real change in our country, so I encourage everyone to have open and honest dialogue.”
In a shared statement, Al Hutchinson, president and chief executive, Visit Baltimore and Charles H. Jeffers, II, chief operating officer, Visit Baltimore, said: “Visit Baltimore wants to do its part in eradicating racism in our city, industry and America. As Black destination leaders for a majority African American city, we make a special call to our white colleagues to help us confront racism. We can’t do this alone; we’ll only achieve positive, lasting change by working together.”
Chief sales officer of Travel Portland James Jessie added: “The first step in making meaningful and lasting change is the acknowledgement that these inequities exist and are prevalent in our industry and society.
“Yet, this only where the journey begins. It must be followed with a dialogue resulting in changes we will all make today and hold ourselves accountable to tomorrow to ensure a brighter future for Black men and women in America.”
“We’re at a tipping point for our community, our country and our industry,” said Melvin Tennant, president and chief executive, Meet Minneapolis.
“We must heed the words of Dr Martin Luther King, who said we must act on racial injustice with ‘the fierce urgency of now.’ We must be ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s important that everybody who needs to be at the table is included in this discussion. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves repeating this cycle once more.”
Dan Williams, vice-president, convention sales and services, Experience Columbus, added: “We’ve watched as calls for social justice have swept the nation in recent weeks, and it’s time for the tourism industry to step up.
“If history has shown us anything, it’s that the black community cannot do it alone, so we’re asking for our industry’s help. Yes, it starts with listening and learning; but we also have to have some tough conversations.
“We have to allow ourselves to see others’ reality and get uncomfortable. We need you to stand beside us and use your voices to ensure equity in our industry, and our lives, starting now.”
Done Welsh, president and chief executive of Destinations International, said: “A lot of conversations centred around race may be uncomfortable by many; but in order to grow, we must break out of our comfort zones and have an open dialogue with one another.
“We are excited to debut this impactful video on race with our convention attendees and we are thankful for the travel and tourism leaders who opened up to shed a light on their experiences. Hopefully, we can all learn and start to make real change and put words into actions.”