Black Meetings and Tourism

September / October 2020

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B M & T ••• September/October 2020 ••• 32 ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION This is a historic moment for our industry - and potentially a game-changing one too. African-Americans now lead four major organizations: Jason Dunn is the recently installed chair of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP); Elliott Ferguson, president/- CEO of Destination DC, is chair of the US Travel Association (USTA); Greg O'Dell, CEO of Events DC, is imme- diate past chair of Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA); and Keith Kershaw is board chair of Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA). Additionally, African-Americans increasingly hold leadership positions at major industry suppliers. For example, Monica Smith in 2018 became president and CEO of Southeast Tourism Society (STS), an organization dedicated to the pro- motion and development of tourism throughout 13 southeastern states and the District of Columbia. What does the presence of these longtime industry professionals in these new key roles say about the state of diversity and inclusion in the industry? How much real progress does it repre- sent? What challenges remain, and what can these leaders do to address them? Of course, there are no simple answers. But each of these professionals sees reasons for optimism, NEW LEADERSHIP, NEW PERSPECTIVES BY PATRICE A. KELLY although much work remains to be done. Dunn notes that in the coming years, "This country will be mostly of color, and particularly Black people are spending $60 billion in tourism, so at some point you have to prepare for the future, and if you're not preparing for the future you won't exist. So, I think people are making conscious decisions to prepare their organizations and their membership bases to reflect those the demographics state they will evolve to." Kershaw stops short of calling the present moment a trend. "However, what has recently occurred can and should be acknowledged," he says. "We have seen lower and middle management in the hospi- tality industry make strides and are hope- ful the upper management areas will experience a breaking of this proverbial glass ceiling." "It's an indication that many professional and trade associations are working t o w a rd s more

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