Future of Tourism Series | Guest Blog
By Al Hutchinson
Over the past year, our country has come face to face with structural racism. The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color, the higher rate of unemployment and the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officers have revealed in stark terms racism’s terrible grip and impact.
Months ago, I co-signed a letter alongside other Black tourism leaders calling for the eradication of racism in the industry. Since then, I’ve heard from colleagues and allies around the world asking what they can personally do to advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion in their space. While eradicating racism in our industry and country is a mighty task, I believe there are five key places where we can start making a difference immediately:
- Create more job opportunities for individuals of color. At Visit Baltimore, we are working with the Guinness Open Gate Brewery to launch a revamped Diversity Apprenticeship Program that will open professional doors for young adults of color. The program allows the apprentice to explore various roles and career paths; participants will be guaranteed employment by Visit Baltimore or a partner organization upon completion of the program with the support of Searchwide Global.
- Make sure there is representation on your board. If you don’t have a diverse representation in the room, it’s nearly impossible to foster an equitable and inclusive organization. It all comes back to giving diverse leaders a seat at the table so that different voices can be heard. At Visit Baltimore, we created a Diversity & Inclusion committee of our board to represent Baltimore’s African American as well as Hispanic/Latino and LQBTQ communities.
- Offer diversity, equity and inclusion trainings for your staff and the hospitality community. Visit Baltimore began offering DE&I trainings for Baltimore tourism and hospitality leaders in Fall 2020. We also held a separate, four-session DE&I training program with the Visit Baltimore staff.
- Create special opportunities for visitors to learn about African American history in your destination and support Black-owned businesses. Destinations need to think about how best to support racially diverse consumers and travelers. We recently partnered with local writer Mecca Verdell to serve as the lead copywriter for Visit Baltimore’s new and free BoP Pass. This pass unlocks exclusive deals and discounts to museums and attractions that celebrate Baltimore’s rich African American history and heritage.
- Review your strategic plans, mission statements and core values, and make the necessary changes to ensure strong commitments to social justice and the eradicating of racism. Our leadership team is planning a virtual retreat that will help us address and embrace social justice and equity. And it’s imperative that this larger goal of eradicating racism is part of our organization’s mission.
There’s a long road ahead as we work toward a more inclusive industry, but that shouldn’t discourage us. Everyone can become an ally and advocate for real, impactful change in our industry.
President and CEO of Visit Baltimore
Al Hutchinson joined Visit Baltimore as president and CEO in November 2016. As the chief executive of the city’s official destination sales and marketing organization, he is responsible for overseeing the promotion of the Baltimore region as a destination for conventions, meetings, leisure visits, day-trips, group tours and family reunions, in addition to serving as the hospitality industry’s liaison to the business, civic and local community, and demonstrating the impact of tourism on the City and the State.
Hutchinson brings more than 24 years of experience in the hospitality and destination marketing industry to Baltimore. He most recently served as president and CEO of Visit Mobile, where he was recognized as the 2016 Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance’s ‘Tourism Promoter of the Year,’ and in 2014 was the recipient of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners ‘Pioneer Award’.