Louisville Tourism Doubles Down on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives

The convention and visitors bureau strengthened its commitment to fighting racial inequality, following the grand jury decision in the Breonna Taylor case.

The Muhammad Ali Center, dedicated to the famed professional boxer and activist, is one of a number of venues in Louisville, Ky., that honor the Black community and its heritage. Photo Credit:Louisville Tourism

The State of Black Tourism
Out of 700 convention and visitor bureaus in the nation, only nine are headed by Black CEOs. Click here for more details on the lack of diversity within the meetings and travel industries. 

In the wake of the announcement that no officers would be charged in the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor this past March, Louisville Tourism issued a message of support to the Black community and stressed its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. While none of the three officers involved in the shooting were charged directly in connection to Taylor's death, one officer was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment for firing through Taylor's window and into an adjoining apartment, according to CNN.

"As we process the grief and raw emotions our community is experiencing right now, we realize we are treating more than one pandemic, addressing sustained systemic racism as well as fighting a health crisis. During these difficult and painful times, we all have a responsibility to help our city grow in order to pave the road for a better future," said Karen Williams, president and CEO of Louisville Tourism. "Although Louisville Tourism's primary focal point is economic development, our broader mission is a thriving community where tourism can make a difference to quality of life. Travel and tourism have long been a foundation in helping change perceptions to bring people together — something we all need now more than ever."

The city's CVB noted that advancing racial equality and inclusion are top priorities, and that it is taking direct action to address these issues. Among the new initiatives launched by Louisville Tourism is the creation of the Black Tourism Advisory Council, which is headed by the CVB's chief operation officer Cleo Battle. As part of the program, BTAC members will hold ongoing conversations with representatives from all major hospitality industry sectors in Louisville, Ky. The conversations will focus on intentional inclusivity and ways to address systemic racism to improve the city's hospitality industry, as well as the overall destination experience for residents and visitors. 

In addition, Louisville Tourism announced that new Black Heritage experiences will be made available this fall. The experiences will be promoted through collaborative partnerships with organizations such as the National Civil Rights Trail, Black Bourbon Society, Kentucky Department of Tourism and the African American Travel Conference.

Louisville Tourism will also be conducting a critical examination of its own practices. The CVB has contracted Gifted by Design, a Louisville-based leadership and consulting firm, to conduct an impartial diversity, equity and inclusion analysis of the organization. The analysis will scrutinize Louisville Tourism's diversity practices relating to hiring, employee education, marketing collateral and vendors.

The CVB will also offer a diversity, equity and inclusion training program for the hospitality industry, with ongoing educational opportunities provided for Louisville Tourism's staff members and industry partners. A virtual workshop, which was hosted in August by the consulting firm Fe-Smart LLC, was attended by more than 450 hospitality industry members. Another workshop is planned for Oct. 1, with more to follow. The trainings are designed to ensure that everyone who interacts with one of the city's hospitality partners will be treated in an appropriate manner and with the respect they deserve.

"Our primary mission remains to grow the economy through tourism, and it is our responsibility to our community to do that inclusively," said Williams of Louisville Tourism. "We will be guided by organizations that have access to the best research, training and resources in DEI."