State of Black Tourism to Address Impact of COVID-19, Race Relations

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State of Black Tourism to Address Impact of COVID-19, Race Relations

By Rich Luna | Sep 3, 2020

SEPT. 17 UPDATE: Jason Dunn, chair of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals, addressed the State of Black Tourism event on Sept. 17. Watch his full address below. Here’s part of what he had to say: “Historically, Black people have been largely unseen in this industry. We are seen as cleaning rooms and cooking food and setting tables and parking cars. And while those roles are very important, Black people were not seen in association boardrooms, as executives with budgets or leading industry organizations. Even when you do see us, you don’t truly see us—you look through us.” 

When the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP) launched its annual State of Black Tourism initiative six years ago, the purpose was to create a think tank to discuss and seek solutions for the concerns of Black hospitality professionals.

When the 7th annual address takes place Sept. 17, in partnership with the National Press Club, the significance of the virtual event will be profound, said Jason Dunn, chair of the NCBMP.

“The (hospitality) industry is paying attention and there appears to be collective fortitude in creating change,” he said.

This year’s State of Black Tourism event—all virtual due to COVID-19—will feature leading hospitality executives and elected officials who will present the newest trends for Black travelers in the U.S. and around the world. The agenda includes discussions on current practices that affect Black hospitality professionals as well as the overall impact on the industry of COVID-19 and the national dialogue on race relations, particularly following the death of George Floyd.

“The industry has to be OK with seeing, hearing, welcoming and saying the word Black and associating that word with authority and influence.”

“We want people to be empowered and to get involved,” Dunn said. “The only way we push the industry forward and make real change is if we truly see each other. Right now, Black people are only seen as hourly workers. While there is no shame in hourly employees, our talent and impact consist of much more than serving hot rolls. The industry has to be OK with seeing, hearing, welcoming and saying the word Black and associating that word with authority and influence.”

The panel speakers for the event include Dunn; Melissa Cherry, COO, Destinations International; Elliott L. Ferguson, president and CEO, Destination DC; Danny Guerrero, vice president, North America strategy and co-chair, DEI Council, MMGY Global; Martinique Lewis, president, Black Travel Alliance; Levar M. Stoney, mayor, Richmond, Va.; and Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO, Meeting Professionals International (MPI).

Marlinda Henry, president, NCBMP, said the organization, founded in 1983, is committed to bringing relevant conversations to the national forefront through strategic partnerships that seek to make the hospitality industry and this nation its best self. NCBMP does have a strategic partnership with MPI.

Dunn said tourism plays a significant role in the nation’s economic ecosystem and empowers communities and culture. The event will illuminate the enormous spending power of Black tourism in the U.S. and globally, and outline course correction strategies by way of data-driven presentations for organizations and institutions so they can do a better job in becoming more welcoming destinations for the Black travelers of tomorrow, he said.

For example, the panel will discuss why there are only nine Black CEOs out of approximately 700 CVBs and how the NCBMP’s partnership with DI could lead to change. Similarly, the NCBMP’s partnership with MMGY Global could help with addressing the absence of data reporting as it relates to Black conventions and meetings.

“We will speak to how Black hospitality employees are being disproportionately laid off and how the few diversity officers that have been retained due to [Black Lives Matter] are being positioned as mannequins with no authority,” Dunn said. “The event will end with action items to solve for many of the discrepancies that Black hospitality professionals face every day.”

Learn more and register.


Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.