Destinations International Launches Equity, Diversity and Inclusion ‘Tourism for All’ Pilot Program

November 21, 2022

Destinations International, the world’s largest resource for official destination organizations, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) and tourism boards, recently unveiled its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) pilot program, “Tourism for All.” Announced at the 2022 Destinations International Advocacy Summit, held Oct. 26-28 in Bloomington, Minn., the new initiative is designed to support CVBs in being more inclusive, welcoming and accessible to prospective visitors, including event attendees, and tourism businesses.  

Launched in partnership with the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau in Charlottesville, Va., and powered by Tripadvisor, the new program will illustrate the value of CVBs in a new way: through their engagement with the entire community, access to opportunities in the tourism economy and being leaders in welcoming all people to their destinations. 

“Destinations International is committed to bringing intentional EDI practices to destinations around the world,” said Sophia Hyder Hock, chief diversity officer at Destinations International. “What sets this initiative apart is its focus on destination and partner accountability. This work is essential to our roles as CVBs and building trust in our communities.”

Through a focus on inclusive marketing, welcoming diverse demographics and creating accessible spaces, the CVB can become the bright beacon to which people from anywhere can find commonality and community, while also attracting new and underserved travelers to the destination, she added. 

The “Tourism for All” pilot program will focus on the following:

  • Creating an action plan and an EDI pledge for the Charlottesville Albemarle CVB’s “Tourism for All” initiative by engaging a diverse array of community members, tourism professionals and businesses involved in the tourism industry
  • Developing intentionally inclusive tour products that tell the stories of historically excluded populations and reach broader audiences
  • Supporting the growth of the Charlottesville Albemarle CVB “Tourism for All” initiative by helping tourism partners cultivate safe physical spaces and developing strategic partnerships to become a more welcoming destination
  • Educating traditionally excluded businesses on how to participate in and benefit from the visitor economy

According to Destinations International officials, the new program comes as traveler studies highlight the economic benefit of different demographics. For example, Black travelers spent nearly $130 billion on travel in 2019, closely followed by Hispanic travelers, who spent $113 billion. Additionally, people with disabilities spend $95 billion globally on travel annuallya number that will grow as destinations and travel products become more accessible.

The Charlottesville Albemarle CVB began its journey to address EDI when Executive Director Courtney Cacatian joined in August 2019, two years after the violent and deadly Unite the Right white nationalist rally in August 2017.  

As Charlottesville continued to dominate headlines, Cacatian recognized the need for a more complete narrative of the destination while working toward real change. She engaged Talia Salem, a tourism marketing strategist, and Hyder Hock, formerly an EDI consultant, to help guide the community and the CVB through this effort. Thus, the initiative “Tourism for All” was born. 

Meanwhile, bringing her knowledge of the process in Charlottesville when she joined Destinations International as its chief diversity officer, Hock recognized the opportunity to create a replicable model for other destinations. 

Seeing the need for trackable metrics, the team partnered with Tripadvisor to leverage its research. This work will identify trends among participating tourism partners through Tripadvisor’s market segments, business ratings and by identifying EDI terms within traveler-generated content showcasing the work the destination and partners are undertaking.

“Everyone should be able to travel anywhere and have an enjoyable travel experience,” said Steven Paganelli, Tripadvisor director of destinations, hotels and OTAs, Americas. “However, our studies with MMGY focusing on Black and Hispanic travelers and travelers with mobility issues highlight a commonality: Our industry has more work to do.” 

He continued, “This program will rely on actual user testimonials through both reviews and discussions within Tripadvisor’s Forums, to track how service levels for underserved travelers change and improve as a result of ‘Tourism for All.’” 

The pilot program will take place first in Charlottesville and will be launched to all destinations wishing to participate in early 2024.

“I’m so pleased to see our community’s work over the past couple of years be formalized into a usable model for other destinations,” Cacatian said. “Building on the success of our Destiny Award-winning Discover Black Cville and ‘Tourism for All’ effort, I look forward to seeing how broadening our scope of creating a welcoming space for everyone will bring positive impact to our community, residents, businesses and visitors.”

Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Just when it seems like Las Vegas can’t get any bigger, brighter or more exciting for groups, MGM Resorts raises the bar again. The company continues to invest and innovate across its portfolio of Las Vegas resorts, with new attractions and upgraded experiences for attendees of all interests.  Remodeled Guest Rooms MGM Grand is the largest single hotel in the world with over 5,000 guest rooms and an 850,000-square-foot conference center. It is home to the newly remodeled MGM Grand Studio Tower—700 reimagined guest rooms with a fun mid-century vibe. Nearby, the iconic New York-New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino recently completed a $63M redesign and remodel of its 1,830 guest rooms and 155 suites. Down the street, Bellagio Las Vegas is sporting renovated rooms in the Spa Tower with sunrise-inspired decor and luxurious soaking tubs in Premier King rooms after a $110-million transformation. Reinvented Luxury Experiences The Luxury Meetings District, made up of Bellagio Las Vegas, ARIA Resort & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas, is now more connected than ever before. A new interior walkway opened this October for a seamless attendee experience – connecting Vdara, Bellagio, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, guests can now walk from Park MGM to Bellagio in around 15 minutes. New on the scene in the Luxury Meetings District is Cathedrale at ARIA, TAO Group’s upscale establishment specializing in exquisite French-Mediterranean cuisine offering elevated private dining experiences that opened in May. Heralded by World’s Best 50 Restaurants, GQ and VOGUE, LPM at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is opening this fall and will deliver its signature spontaneity and imaginative celebration of France’s Mediterranean cuisine, art, and culture to the unique luxury resort in impeccable fashion.  A “New Wave  for Mandalay Bay A new wave of enhancements and experiences has arrived at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, including Flanker Kitchen + Sports Bar, an 8,445-square-foot restaurant that opened this June, perfect for pre- and post-game eats and drinks. Event planner’s favorite, Chef Michael Mina’s StripSteak, received a full renovation and now includes one of the largest private dining rooms on The Strip. Retro by Voltaggio debuts a one-year residency with a fun take on pop culture of the 80s and 90s with classic American dishes. An exciting addition planned for 2024 is Swingers, a 40,000-square-foot oasis of street food, miniature golf and art at Mandalay Bay. Most exciting for meeting planners, the 2.1 million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center  is undergoing a complete refresh, with lightened space, added eye-catching art, and improved technology infrastructure for even more flexible space. Energy-efficient digital signage now leads the way with faster internet speeds and new AV options. From renovated guest rooms and meeting spaces to celebrated dining options and dedicated teams, MGM Resorts is dedicated to delivering exceptional and innovative meeting experiences.