Black Meetings and Tourism

Sep/Oct 2011

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DMAI BY SONYA STINSON Having wrapped up a suc- cessful national convention in New Orleans, where issues like the relevancy and funding of destination marketing organizations and the cultiva- tion of emerging travel mar- kets were hot topics, Dest- ination Marketing Association International (DMAI) is preparing to roll out two new initiatives aimed at fostering greater diversity in the indus- try's workforce. One program, called Rising Star, was described in a news release issued during the con- vention held at the Sheraton New Orleans July 20-22, 2011. Using a job-training and cross-training model, the pilot program will identify and train DMO professionals in leader- ship skills that can help them advance to senior and execu- tive levels. Organizers hope to select one or two candidates this year. The need for a program like Rising Star was under- scored when DMAI reviewed some of the data from its lat- est membership develop- ment survey, according to Jim Duda, executive director of the association's Destination & Travel Foundation, which is underwriting the diversity ini- tiatives. "We learned a couple of things from that," Duda says. "One is that ethnic minorities were underrepresented in terms of the national aver- ages. We knew this going in, but the survey just sort of confirmed what we already suspected. . . . Beyond that, what we learned is that peo- ple are asking for more cross- training opportunities to be able to learn functional disci- plines that they may not cur- rently be getting. In some cases, there may be just a lim- itation of opportunity because of the size of the bureau, and they can't get that training from within their own walls. So we've developed a pro- gram to [allow them] to get that experience at other bureaus." The second initiative is a student career fair program in which DMAI will partner with the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). This fall, the associ- ation will participate in a regional NSMH career fair. "Most DMOs don't have a large enough office to warrant sending resources and staff to various universities to attend career fairs," Duda says. "Our strategy is to use DMAI's job bank – which is a collective job bank for the DMO indus- try – carry that to career fairs and have some of our mem- bers in the area represent the industry at those career fairs." Although DMAI's diversity JIM DUDA S ETS GOAL OF MORE DIVERSITY subcommittee met in New Orleans the day before the convention officially began, the group's latest endeavor was not part of the main con- vention agenda, says Leslie Wright, senior vice president, destination sales and service, "We really want people to know that the job opportuni- ties go well beyond hotels and restaurants and that trav- el and tourism and destina- tion marketing are viable, long-term careers," Duda says. Support for Young Professionals While the current focus of LESLIE WRIGHT for Meet Minneapolis, who co-chairs the diversity sub- committee. "We wanted to get some legs to [the diversity initiative] before we begin to roll it out," Wright says. She adds that increasing the diver- sity of those entering and advancing through the field "brings a new wave to this industry." "One of the big things for me, as an African-American in an industry where we real- ly aren't as well represented as we could be, is to get the industry excited about get- ting more minorities into it," Wright says. She notes that college stu- dents often know less about career opportunities with convention and visitors bureaus than with the more familiar hotel and restaurant industries. Duda makes the same point. ARRON BROOKS Black Meetings & Tourism September/October 2011: 49 DMAI 's diversity subcom- mittee is on racial and ethnic diversity, Duda notes that DMAI defines the term to include elements like age, sexual orientation and life experience as well. At this year's convention, the asso- ciation launched its 30 Under 30 Program, which provided complimentary all-access convention registration and a three-night hotel stay for 30 DMO professionals under age 30. Sponsored by SearchWide, the program was designed to help young DMO pros advance their careers by giving them access to the convention's networking and educational opportunities. Arron Brooks, account director in the convention

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