Black Meetings and Tourism

March / April 2023

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B M & T ••• March/April 2023 ••• 13 welcoming than others of events with a majority of Black attendees, while 42 per- cent said their attendees had felt unwel- come in a meeting destination in the past. Those kinds of experiences – even when they are isolated to a particular venue or staff encounter – make a differ- ence in the success or failure of a desti- nation's market outreach. That's especial- ly so since meeting planners surveyed in the MMGY Global report ranked word-of- mouth as their top information source when choosing a host destination.They also looked for evidence of a destina- tion's commitment to diversity, including the representation depicted in marketing materials and the racial diversity of the destination itself. An effective strategy for reaching the ethnic travel market needs to incorporate a variety of elements, from the choice of marketing media, to the creation of the visitor's experience, to the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion among travel industry employees and entrepre- neurs. Responding to Travelers' Interests and Expectations When it comes to the visitor experi- ence, Greg DeShields, Executive Director of Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM), notes that meeting the expecta- tions of ethnic travelers begins with get- ting to know them. "Learning about and engaging with those communities will allow you to be more authentic and gen- uine when you provide a variety of prod- ucts and services," DeShields says. Following the murder of George Floyd, the organization's President and CEO Mike Gamble, who heads a tourism-relat- ed executive search firm in in Minneapolis, recognized a need to help industry leaders create more effective DEI strategies and tactics, DeShields says. In one example of the organization's work, a TDM analysis of the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau's marketing outreach revealed that, to increase its appeal to the ethnic meeting groups market, the bureau needed a bet- ter way to tell the story of its diversity efforts and successes. Toward that end TDM worked with the Lansing CVB's diversity council to highlight the diversity of the local community. Together, they created a new page on the bureau's web- site linking information about multicultural attractions, events, businesses and his- torical facts. At Destination DC, a new content hub called The DEI District is connecting leisure travelers, meeting attendees and even local residents with knowledge about the diverse population, business community and history in the city of Washington. The launch of The DEI District in May 2021 coincided with the emergence of protest tourism, which drew people to the U.S. capital to rally for a wide range of causes, including racial justice. People around the country were intrigued to learn more about sites like Black Lives Matter Plaza and the impromptu gallery of protest art along the fence erected at Lafayette Park. At a time when the local tourism industry was struggling to bring visitors back, this new activism-fueled interest in the city became an economic shot in the arm. "I think the key thing that we've done as we look at … protest tourism is to remain nimble in terms of what disruptors or opportunities in the market that did not exist before but we may be able to expose people to," says Destination DC's President/CEO Elliott Ferguson, who chairs the board of directors for Tourism Diversity Matters. The San Diego Tourism Authority has also been deliberate about making sure its marketing materials highlight informa- tion of interest to African-American, HIspanic and other ethnic visitors. "Showcasing San Diego's rich heritage and vibrant culture has allowed us to fos- ter strong connections for various ethnic markets," Coker says." From the Barrio Logan, with its mural-filled Chicano Park chronicling the Chicano experience, to City Heights, where more than 30 differ- ent languages and dialects are spoken, to the multicultural landmarks across our neighborhoods, San Diego's culture reverberates throughout the city, which resonates across ethnic markets." Beyond visitors bureau websites and other internal marketing vehicles, Coker notes that travel industry organizations can also look for ways to make better use of Black-owned and other ethnic media. "This can be done by creating content tailored to the demographic and working with influencers who have a strong pres- ence within these communities," Coker says. "Additionally, using language, imagery, and content that is culturally rel- evant to the target audience can help bring their marketing efforts to life in a meaningful way. Furthermore, building relationships with critical media outlets and organizations that serve the desired demographic can help to gain access to additional audiences and opportunities." Both Ferguson and Coker mention the growing influence of digital and social media on the ethnic market. "Having a presence on platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram can help marketers reach tar- get audiences and foster relationships with them," Coker says. Delivering Diversity in the Tourism Industry

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