Travel Industry Rallies Behind 'Diversity Matters' Mission

A new initiative from the Philadelphia CVB, ConferenceDirect and SearchWide Global aims to build a more diverse workforce through apprenticeship opportunities and more.

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The meetings and travel industries were forced to address issues of racism and lack of diversity in 2020. In an effort to continue these conversations and drive long-lasting change, industry leaders have rallied together to create a new initiative, titled Tourism Diversity Matters.

According to its mission statement, TDM aims to provide decision makers within the industry with access to the resources and tools needed to develop more effective diversity and inclusion strategies. The program is also designed to help engage and retain a more diverse workforce. 

Founding partners include the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, event management company ConferenceDirect and the executive recruitment firm SearchWide Global. Mike Gamble, president and CEO of SearchWide Global, is the founder of TDM. Greg DeShields, who oversees the PHLDiversity division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, has been named the executive director. Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, will serve as chairman of the board. 

"Tourism Diversity Matters is a dedicated resource focused solely on creating long-term solutions through complete industry engagement and participation," said Gamble. "The intention is not to replace existing good work happening in this area, but rather to shine a light on it, and add value and insight where needed."

The inaugural board of directors features nearly two dozen leaders from top industry associations. Among them are:

TDM will be focused on four main objectives: workforce development, apprenticeships, research and data, and diversity, equity and inclusion training for organizations. The apprenticeship program will provide diverse candidates interested in pursuing a career in the tourism industry with 600 hours of working experience. Candidates will gain experience in three tracks: destination management, sports and meetings. They will work across multiple departments, such as marketing, sales, finance and operations. TDM will also share research on the benefits of diversity, as well as recommended hiring and recruitment practices for building an equitable workforce.

"Tourism Diversity Matters offers the opportunity to reset and heal from a year filled with the most challenging moments in modern history," said Carrie Freeman Parsons, chair of the event management company Freeman and board member of TDM. "I am honored to be part of this important collaboration moving all toward an inclusive environment with equitable access and participation."