Sophia Hyder Hock, Myght Contributor

10 Ways to Incorporate Diversity into your Tourism Boards Strategic Plan 

Diversity in Travel

As cities reopen in the aftermath of the global pandemic, tourism boards are emphasizing the importance of staycations, encouraging locals to explore and support their respective economies.

But as your tourism bureau looks for ways to promote and support your destination during these challenging times, it’s worthwhile to consider the role that diversity plays in your operations and your outreach.

Diversifying outreach to include local entrepreneurs and varied identities within your destination has immense potential to create positive economic growth. Tourism boards have traditionally focused their marketing efforts to attract white travelers. Minority groups tend to get overlooked, yet their influence within a destination could generate new tourism avenues and opportunities for increased visitorship.

Below, we’ll highlight why diversity matters within tourism boards and we’ll suggest ways to develop diverse and inclusive strategies to attract locals and visitors.

Why Diversity Matter 

Developing a growth mindset that embraces diversity can lead to ample opportunities for your tourism board in three ways. 

Economic opportunity: Engaging diverse populations within your destination can provide opportunities for immense economic growth. For example, Discover Philadelphia has created PHL Diversity, a portal that encourages multicultural businesses and communities to benefit from the hospitality and tourism industries.

By weaving different races, identities, and beliefs into the ethos of your tourism board, you’ll be more likely to attract visitors from a variety of backgrounds who feel represented, welcome, and safe. Zim Ugochukwu, the founder of Travel Noire, has said, “We know that people of color are 38% more likely to make a purchase if advertisements reflected them.”

Innovation: Diverse teams with varying backgrounds and perspectives tend to spark innovation and increased revenue growth. According to a Forbes article, diverse teams bring new perspectives and help pinpoint market opportunities and unmet needs.
As an expert in your region, your tourism board has the opportunity to explore, engage, and promote aspects of your destination that haven’t been represented in the past. One way to do this is to hire staff from varying backgrounds who can aid in highlighting the unique attributes of your destination in a fresh, engaging way.

Preservation and Understanding of Cultural Heritage: As your tourism board reviews its strategic plans, consider how history is being reflected within the destination. Are you using diverse lenses to offer a well-rounded perspective? Gathering and verifying these perspectives may be a part of a long-term plan. However, the honest inclusion of these voices can differentiate the destination from surrounding locations, garnering more staycationers and enticing visitors to learn about this newly represented heritage.

How To Integrate Diverse Perspectives Into Your Tourism Board:

Diversity within tourism boards is integral to economic growth and innovation, yet the why and the how must be addressed before you can develop a strategy. Authenticity matters. If the decision-makers within your tourism board are simply incorporating diverse perspectives into the staffing plan or marketing plan to check off a box, the sentiment will clearly show through the messaging and marketing campaigns.

Take the time to think about why diverse perspectives should be integrated into ethos of your tourism board and consider these questions:

     -Why does the integration of diverse and inclusive perspectives matter for your destination?
     -Is your destination making an effort to attract diverse audiences locally and for external visitors?
     -Is your destination promoting diverse and inclusive practices internally?

After the why has been addressed, focus on how the strategy can be developed and integrated to attract diverse locals and visitors.  

These 10 steps will provide a tourism board with initial guidelines on how to get started.

  • Establish a strong commitment. An actionable, fully committed strategy that promotes diverse and inclusive practices within your tourism board is integral to success. Leadership must be involved to support these efforts.
  • Define diversity and inclusion for your tourism board to ensure all members share a common understanding. Discuss why diversity and inclusion matter and document this definition for all your stakeholders to read and understand.
  • Conduct an internal assessment of your destination using a diversity and inclusion lens by reviewing policies, hiring and recruitment practices, stakeholder engagement practices, and the external messaging of your website.
  • Conduct an internal assessment of your destination to understand the current makeup of your staff. Are different perspectives and abilities represented within your teams?
  • Conduct an internal assessment of your organization’s marketing strategies. Are different perspectives and abilities represented within your marketing teams?
  • Obtain a clear understanding about the reporting structure within the tourism board and how decisions are made. This level of awareness will influence how to approach decision-makers.
  • Research the demographic data of your destination to recognize groups you are currently representing and groups who need to be included. Visit the areas where these groups reside in your destination. Understand their way of life, language, and their perspectives.
  • Research visitor data. What groups are visiting your destination, and what is the purpose of their trip? Identify market segments that you would like to attract. Consider linkages between community representation and potential new audiences.
  • Reach out to community leaders and stakeholders from underrepresented groups to listen, learn, and develop pathways to developing meaningful partnerships.
  • Create accountability by developing a diversity and inclusion plan that incorporates internal and external goals for every team. This plan should discuss how resources and budgets will be allocated to support the integration of diverse and inclusive practices within your tourism board.

Incorporating diverse and inclusive practices into the ethos of your tourism board can result in positive economic benefits and offer innovative solutions to attract new visitors. The onus is on your tourism board to be thoughtful in designing a strategy that reflects the culture and identity of the destination you represent. Most importantly, with an authentic mindset, you can achieve a sound approach.
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