How California Excels at Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Visit West Hollywood's Tom Kiely shares how the Golden State ensures all attendees feel welcome. 

Photo Credit: Visit West Hollywood

At Visit California's California Meetings hub, learn about California's wealth of destinations and group offerings. From beach activities to cutting-edge convention centers, boutique corporate retreats or large-scale conferences will find an ideal destination in California. Learn more!

This article is sponsored by Visit California.

For planners looking to ensure the diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI) of their meetings and events, California provides an ideal destination.

There are plenty of reasons why the Golden State is a great option for group prioritizing DEI. According to personal finance site WalletHub, California is the most diverse state in the nation, with the most linguistic diversity. No one race or ethnic group makes up a majority of the state's population. According to the 2020 U.S. census, 39 percent of California's residents are Latino, 35 percent are white, 15 percent are Asian American or Pacific Islander, five percent are Black, 4 percent are multiracial and fewer than one percent are Native American or Alaska Natives. 

In other words, California is a place where all are welcome. 

That welcoming attitude is evident in the state's tourism industry and event venues. In addition to accessible features at meeting facilities around the state, planners will find group-friendly attractions designed for all types of groups — whether it's the accessible fishing pier at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in the Shasta Cascade region, the free manual and power beach wheelchairs at nine of San Diego's iconic beaches or the numerous programs and services for people with mobility restrictions at large venues like Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. 

For insight about California's dedication to DEI, we spoke with Tom Kiely, president and CEO of Visit West Hollywood. West Hollywood is a perfect example of the state's diversity — nearly 40 percent of the city's population identifies as LGBTQ — and boasts a range of top-notch meeting offerings ideal for events of all types. Below are selections from that conversation.

California has an incredibly diverse population as well as laws that support inclusivity. How does that help to make the state even more attractive for meeting planners and groups? 

Tom Kiely, president and CEO, Visit West Hollywood

Tom Kiely: California is leading the way as a welcoming destination to all visitors regardless of where they come from, their background or their beliefs. We feel that providing this welcoming environment to all is key to our economic success, and we want meeting planners to know this. Our elected leaders at the state and national levels have consistently shown that they value, respect, and promote laws and ideas of acceptance and inclusivity for all. Meeting professionals can recognize and appreciate that when they bring their groups to California, we provide a welcoming environment for all delegates regardless of their beliefs or background.

What are some examples of California's impressive inclusivity?

Look at the ethnic makeup of California's population. We have an enormous number of residents that hail from other states and countries. That's because people from all walks of life feel comfortable here. They know they are part of a larger society and that they help make California, the world's fifth-largest economy. California leaders fought to legalize same-sex marriage, which is a subject of extreme importance to residents of our home, West Hollywood.

Why is DEI so important in today's MICE segment? 

Inclusivity, acceptance and equality are essential to meeting professionals and all travelers now. The world is more conscious of diversity and that we are all different, making us more robust, more resilient and successful. The professional meetings and events industry, specifically MICE, recognizes that people come from all walks of life. Our jobs rely on people meeting, traveling, sharing experiences with new people and exchanging new ideas in our industry. We cannot maximize these relationships and their results if we have blinders on or restrict borders and travel between countries.

How can California's CVBs, DMOs and other organizations and suppliers help planners looking to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for their events?

Each DMO and destination must assess its own offerings to determine if its community and business environments showcase inclusive experiences and environments for meeting professionals and their clients. For example, West Hollywood has a history of diversity and inclusion that dates to the founding of the city itself. It is part of our DNA.

We encourage meeting professionals to ask these questions during their planning phases:

  • Is the destination diverse? 
  • Is it open and accepting of those not like themselves? 
  • Do they welcome people from areas very different than their city? Does the DMO have a plan to ensure they promote a welcoming environment for all visitors, including events? Destinations must lead by example and must have a roadmap to do so.

What other factors should meeting planners take into consideration when choosing the destination and specific venues within the state to make sure they find places that best fit their needs in terms of diversity and inclusion?

Look at their attendees' needs and the core values of their organization. Do the core values fit with those of the destination? Is this city a place where their delegates would feel welcome and accepted?

Sponsored by:

meet in california