Tourism Diversity Matters Puts Access, Advancement and Economic Power Center Stage at its 2023 Conference

The Collective Experience

The Collective Experience United 250 Leaders Across Industry Sectors

ST. PAUL, MN, November 2, 2023 —Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) concluded its flagship Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) conference, The Collective Experience, on Oct. 24, 2023 at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. The tourism-led convening brought together leaders across corporate, non-profit, government and academic sectors to exchange insights and concepts about diversity, equity and inclusion best practices. The 2023 conference agenda put access, advancement and economic power center stage.

“The Collective Experience is all about how we, as leaders, can foster a culture of respect, understanding, and belonging, which ultimately drives economic growth and innovation, said Gregg Caren, 2023 DEI conference co-chair and Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO. “The tourism industry is steeped in multiculturalism, making it a natural forum for nonprofit, corporate, and academic sectors to intersect and advance cross-cultural comprehension. It was thrilling to see attendees buzzing with inspiration and new connections, which will undoubtedly grow our collective impact.”

“The opening keynote with Jonathan D. Lovitz, a nationally recognized DEI Advocate from the U.S. Department of Commerce, really struck a chord with me, said Mike Gamble, President & CEO of SearchWide Global and Founder & CEO of Tourism Diversity Matters. “Jonathan said, ‘Organizations must resist the urge to find a one-size-fits-all all DEI response. One training is not enough to eradicate bias; one monthly Employee Resource Group (ERG) meeting is not enough to feel seen. It’s a 365-day commitment to growing and realizing there is always more to learn and do to support your community and those around you.’ TDM was founded with the belief that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion require a 365-day commitment. It’s this level of dedication and collaboration we’re fostering at The Collective Experience, that will advance DEI excellence and drive organizations forward. Leaders need to commit, and we’re here to provide a pathway to success.”

Key Highlights from The Collective Experience: 2023 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Conference include:

  • Connecting the power and importance of inclusion to the success of the American economy. In his opening keynote video address, Jonathan D. Lovitz, Director of Public Affairs & Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce shared how more than ever before, the private sector is listening to the collective voice of America’s diverse communities. Demanding inclusion and equality where we live and work is not a radical act, it’s a patriotic one. And it’s smart business. The true source of equity and ability to bring about change for our communities lies in our economic power. Organizations should center diversity not only in their organization’s operations, but also in the execution of their events with a commitment toward supplier diversity and equitable sourcing.
  • Creating better futures for people, organizations, and societies. During the CEO Roundtable Keynote, Carsten Beck, Director & Futurist, and Monika Volgyi, advisor and futurist, both from the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies delivered a fresh perspective on mega trends and the transformative forces shaping DEI, meetings and conventions, and workforce. Organizations often get stuck in current events and a media landscape trying to get likes and swipes. Beck brought an intellectual perspective on how to evaluate risk and possibilities while thinking more intentionally about where we will be in five and 10 years.
  • Growing your business AND minding civil rights. The 2023 TDM Diversity & Inclusion Award was presented to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This year’s honoree was recognized for creating and sustaining equitable opportunities. The NAACP pioneered the civil rights movement in the 20th century and continues its extraordinary work today to end race-based discrimination through 21st-century activism. The Awards included an impactful conversation between Leon W. Russell, Board of Directors Chair for NAACP, and Geoff Freeman, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association moderated by Martha Sheridan, President & CEO of Meet Boston. Russell addressed the responsibility the travel industry has in advancing DEI—and how organizations can be more successful, while also being mindful of individual civil rights. He also shared powerful insights on how the NAACP works to get people’s attention, just as destination marketers do. This pivotal dialogue illustrated the importance of open communication.
  • Developing inclusive and welcoming environments & workforce. The Academic Think Tank was a powerful component of The Collective Experience, which brought many critical issues to the forefront, including the lack of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) faculty within academic institutions. The forum, specifically designed for deans, directors, research faculty, and DEI practitioners, included in-depth discussions on the vital role of academics in curriculum development during a particularly heated political environment as well as developing diverse talent pipelines with expert insights from Associate Professor & Chair Berkita S. Bradford, Department of Hospitality Management at Virginia State University and Distinguished Chair Carl A. Boger, College of Global Hospitality Leadership at the University of Houston. The Academic Think Tank also featured an analysis of Tourism Diversity Matters’ DEI organizational assessments from two researchers at San Diego State University—Sandra Pointing, Associate Professor, and Carl Winston, Founding Director, L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. They presented information about how TDM’s client outcomes compared to a broader pool of clients across different industries. Their research found that organizations consistently struggle with communication, demonstrating that business leaders who want to do better in diversity, equity, and inclusion must develop a strategy to tell that story to their internal team, partners, and stakeholders.
The 2023 conference featured a diverse lineup of speakers and engaging panel discussions that were designed to foster deeper discussions, provide practical insights, and create a space for networking and collaboration. Sessions focused on igniting inspiration and preparedness for today’s most pressing DEI issues, such as DEI Politics and Culture, DEI Organizational Culture, DEI Sustainability, and Supplier Diversity. The conference was produced through a lens of DEI with prioritization around supplier diversity featuring women-owned businesses, black-women-owned businesses, and LGBTQ-owned businesses.

“Tourism Diversity Matters has seen profound changes in our industry, with a growing awareness that diversity is not just a moral obligation, but a strategic imperative,” said Greg DeShields, executive director of TDM. “Organizations want to know what leaders need to do today around DEI. The work both Gregg Caren, our conference co-chair, and Mike Gamble, the founder of TDM, do is a perfect example. Anytime they could have said, ‘It’s too expensive’ or ‘It’s too risky for our reputation’, but they’ve maintained their commitment to supporting DEI from an operational, financial, and cultural perspective. The Collective conference plays a pivotal role in bringing about this transformation, which is a testament to the power of collective action. We look forward to growing and convening this amazing community of leaders, visionaries, and changemakers to advance DEI excellence.”

For media inquiries or to request additional information, please contact:
Yvonne E. Drayton
ydrayton@tourismdiversitymatters.org
215.882.3765 (mobile)

High-resolution images and resources from the conference are available here.