DEI in Travel and Tourism, with Greg DeShields

Episode 203

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Greg DeShields currently serves as the Executive Director at PHLDiversity a business development division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. As Executive Director of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau PHLDiversity, Greg is responsible for developing and implementing plans, strategies, and initiatives specifically designed to raise Philadelphia’s image as a diverse multicultural destination, leading to hotel room nights and economic impact for the region. Greg is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University Providence, Rhode Island, with an A.S. Degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management; and B.S. Degree in Hospitality Management. His professional development includes a certification from the Institute for Diversity, Urban League of Philadelphia, Leadership Forum, Leadership Philadelphia, and Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange. Destination on the Left is joined by Greg DeShields, the Executive Director at PHLDiversity. PHLDiversity is a business development division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau that develops and implements plans, strategies, and initiatives specifically designed to raise Philadelphia’s image as a diverse multicultural destination. During our conversation, Greg talks about why it is so important for businesses to create a strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations AND communities. Then he explains what it takes to implement the strategy for long-term results.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Greg’s journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • How multiculturalism has a financial impact on destinations
  • How DEI continues to evolve as time moves forward
  • Why DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a marathon, not a sprint
  • The business case for creating a DEI strategy
  • How to foster community participation and involvement for diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Why proactive strategy and planning is better for DEI than taking a reactive approach
  • How a collaboration between PHLDiversity and a local LGBT chamber led to new revenue and business for both organizations
  • How podcasting ties into the work that PHLDiversity does

The Expansion of DEI in Travel and Tourism

Greg DeShields is the Executive Director at PHLDiversity, a business development division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is responsible for developing and implementing plans, strategies, and initiatives specifically designed to raise Philadelphia’s image as a diverse multicultural destination leading to hotel room nights and economic impact for the region. During our conversation, Greg talks about why it is so important for businesses to create a strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations AND communities. Then he explains what it takes to implement the strategy for long-term results.

The Evolution of Multiculturalism

After Greg spent some time getting settled in his career, he started to understand the economic impact that multiculturalism had on destinations across the globe. But once he moved from the board of directors to a leadership position in PHLDiversity, he started working to expand the table beyond culture. It embraced all communities like women and LGBT, and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) continues to evolve over the years. Now, Greg and his team are focused on eliminating barriers and creating access for people of color.

Creativity and DEI

Normally we talk about examples of creativity used to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the travel and tourism industry. But in this case, the PHLDiversity organization is an example in and of itself. The organization has been around for over 30 years, and in the late 1980s, Philadelphia was not known as a tourist destination. When Atlantic city started to gain notoriety, the city needed to find a way to engage diverse communities as gaming expanded. This led to the formation of a new organization that brought black voices into the discussion. Community participation has been a key part of their work to this day, and PHLDiversity continues to engage the local population in new and innovative ways.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:17 Hello listeners. This is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. This week’s episode is going to be a change from our regular format. I welcome Greg DeShields to the show to talk about equity, diversity and inclusion in the tourism industry. Greg is the executive director for PHL diversity, a business development division of the Philadelphia convention and visitors Bureau. Through our conversation, you will learn that DEI is a marathon, not a sprint. Greg talks about the business case for creating a DEI strategy, the importance of fostering community participation and involvement and why strategy and planning are better than just reacting. Greg also gives us a great example of how a collaboration between PHL diversity and the local LGBT chamber led to new revenue and business for both organizations. A little more about Greg as executive director of the Philadelphia convention and visitors Bureau P H L diversity.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:22 Greg is responsible for developing and implementing plans, strategies, and initiatives, specifically designed to raise Philadelphia’s image as a diverse multicultural destination, leading to hotel room nights and economic impact for the region. Greg is a graduate of Johnson and Wales university, Providence Rhode Island with an associates degree in hotel and restaurant management and a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. His professional development includes certification from the Institute for diversity, urban league of Philadelphia leadership, forum, leadership, Philadelphia, and greater Philadelphia leadership exchange. Get ready to take notes. I know you will want to write down many of Greg’s amazing insights, but before we dive into the episode, I have a message I’d love to share with you, Greg. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m really looking forward to this conversation, but before we get started with the topic of today on diversity, equity and inclusion, I’m wondering if you can share your story with our listeners in your own words, your story of, you know, how you’ve gotten to where you are today in your professional journey and the travel and tourism world.

Greg DeShields: 02:38 Sure. Well, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your podcast. I’m really thrilled to be both to contribute to the content of the subject and to start and talk about me. You know, I’m a native Philadelphian. Uh, what’s interesting, as I grew up, uh, I always wanted to be a journalist. Um, when I was in high school, I actually took a, um, program that was made available for students who were working with the local, um, high school newspaper. Uh, it was called new study, 76 and it was produced by CBS network here in Philadelphia. And for, uh, four months you went to their studio to learn everything about journalism. And I had an opportunity to talk with a reporter and I said, I wanted to be a reporter. And he said, well, you’re crazy. And he went on to say that as a reporter, you’re not going to make any money. And as a young African American, you know, this is probably not the best, you know, effort that you should really pursue. And I was so incredibly disappointed because I really enjoyed writing, but, you know, I felt that I had a responsibility to make some important decisions since I would be graduating. So I talked to my college counselor and he said, what else do you like to do? And I said, the only thing I like to do is eat. And that’s when he said, have you ever heard of a school called Johnson and Wales?

Greg DeShields: 03:59 So he says, it’s a Providence, Rhode Island. You can learn about the hospitality industry. So, um, you know, I had worked in fast food restaurants and that sort of thing, but, uh, I was fortunate enough to kind of follow up on what he said. Um, I applied to a variety of hospitality schools, uh, Johnson and Wales was by far, uh, the stellar choice. Um, because at that time they had just launched their four year hospitality degree and I thought this would be a great way to kind of, you know, make my own way. So, uh, applied to Johnson and Wales, uh, was accepted into their two year, um, associate degree hotel restaurant program. I was in Providence, Rhode Island. I lived in Philadelphia. It was far enough away, but not too far away. And it was a small town. So I didn’t necessarily feel like I could get lost.

Greg DeShields: 04:47 I was between Boston and New York and, uh, fell in love with the industry. Fortunately for me, um, I knew that there was more than just a two year, uh, restaurant decree. Uh, so once I got my associates degree, one of my professors had encouraged me to get a hospitality management degree, uh, decided to step up and do the four years. Uh, fortunately I had parents who were very supportive of me in my pursuit, uh, graduated in 1980 with my, um, bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and was immediately encouraged to participate in a management training program. So I enrolled and was accepted into the height management training program, uh, was originally to do my training at the grand Hyde in New York. And that didn’t work out that then later the grand Hyatt, uh, in Chicago and ultimately, uh, they settled at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, which was, is, and still is an iconic hotels that John Portman designed like who wouldn’t want to be there.

Greg DeShields: 05:47 So I did my management training, uh, in Atlanta, um, and after about three or four years, uh, felt it was time to spread my wings, uh, later went to work for Omni hotels, uh, fell in love with Omni, worked with them, uh, in a number of different cities, um, and found that, uh, amongst all of the companies that I’d ever worked, where they were the most innovative, but I knew it was about working in the hotel industry, uh, because I had just been bitten by the bug, uh, from Omni. I went to work for a few independence later, a real estate management group, Korman communities here in Philadelphia that, uh, had an extended stay model, which was fantastic. And, you know, realize that my sweet spot was in rooms division. And I felt that that was a direction I wanted to go front office manager and office manager to any other rooms category, uh, with the road to be a general manager.

Greg DeShields: 06:40 So, uh, at about 37, I had my midlife crisis. I was the assistant general manager for a mixed use, residential and Tel, uh, property, uh, and made the decision to do something else, uh, wanted to kind of expand my wings. So I left the hotel industry, uh, went to work for a nonprofit, uh, running a hospitality training program. I was a part of an organization that really helped to, uh, be an instrumental partner in workforce development during the civil rights movement. And they have a contract for hospitality training program. So I led that program for about seven years, um, as, uh, it was quite successful. I was able then to be recruited by temple university as they started their hospitality management training program, uh, became an administrator and managing the corporate relations for temples hospitality program for their campus here in the U S and their campus Tokyo.

Greg DeShields: 07:35 And then, uh, later I moved over to the Fox school of business, managing their corporate relations with temple for about 13 years, and then ultimately, um, was able to, um, move to the job that I always wanted to be the executive director of the multicultural affairs Congress, or then PHL diversity. And it has been, you know, a dream to be in this job. I’m extremely passionate about the work and working at the Philadelphia convention and visitor’s Bureau, which has such a rich history in terms of its commitment to the diverse communities in Philadelphia was like the perfect marriage of your career aspirations and opportunity. So that’s how I got there.

Nicole Mahoney: 08:14 That’s awesome. I just love that story. There’s so many things I love about the story, but, uh, as you were talking and I, I, I take notes, um, I just, I just love the journey and how you are constantly striving and looking for something new. You always know there’s that next chapter and, and, and have this idea about where you’re going, but then I just, it really struck a chord for me when you started to talk about the workforce development piece and how you founded, like the way I would describe it, transferred your skills from, you know, being in the industry, into teaching and mentoring and bringing people up, um, you know, that would hopefully be the future leaders right. For the industry. So I know you’ve just got so much perspective just from, from that and from that introduction.

Greg DeShields: 09:04 Yes. And I will say that the time that I spent, um, in workforce development and working at a university was a great way to take all of that practical, operational knowledge that you had and really apply it in an effective way. You know, one of the reasons why I went to OIC is I had hosted interns from their program and always felt that they were really not prepared in a way that they should be. And when I went to work for them, they said, well, you know, you were one of our biggest critics and that’s why we felt you’d be the best to lead this program. Traditionally, they had administrators from workforce development in the nonprofit space, but having a hotel person, uh, lead a hospitality training program, uh, was kind of a revolution for them. And I think it was a great move for all of them.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:49 Yeah, that’s fantastic. And just for, from a timeline perspective, um, when did you, uh, join PHL diversity?

Greg DeShields: 09:58 So once again, I had been on the board, so I joined the board for what was then the multicultural affairs Congress back in 2000 or 2001. Uh, and I officially became the executive director of PHL diversity, uh, in 2014, April of 2014.

Nicole Mahoney: 10:15 Right. And so, um, what an interesting time for you to be in this, in this role, and, uh, I’m really looking forward to learning more from you today, especially since what it sounds like is a destination that’s really been at work on this, um, this issue or the issues around diversity inclusion and equity. And so I’m really looking forward to hearing your perspective and, and having our listeners really learn from what your destination has done, because I know a lot of us are really wondering what should we be doing. So, um, but before we kind of get into the nuts and bolts of that, could you share a little bit about how you have been impacted by issues of diversity equity or inclusion?

Greg DeShields: 10:58 You know, as I read this question, you know, I just realized that, you know, I’ve kind of lived through so many evolutions of it, you know, whether it was through, you know, the civil rights movement or which at that time I was very young or, you know, moving into affirmative action, which I think for me, I was significantly impacted during the affirmative action period because when I graduated and went into a corporate management training program, a Hyatt, like many other companies, really stepping up their opportunities to ensure that they were creating a path for students of color. So when I graduated for Johnson Wales and was recruited in the management training program, it was part of a higher participation, the affirmative action efforts. And that really gave me the access. So I would say that was amongst the first times that I was fully impacted when I later, um, moved into the roles of, you know, placing and educating individuals, uh, and learning about the significance of the fabric of multiculturalism that existed here in Philadelphia, across the country.

Greg DeShields: 12:03 It started to make sense to me how all of these pieces come together. Like you understand the business of it. And I had never had a real sense of economic impact that multicultural communities bring, especially in this particular industry. So I evolved in terms of understanding that, and I think, you know, in 2014 and 2015, uh, and this was after 25 plus years that the multicultural affairs had been in existence. You know, I had to evolve the division when I stepped into leadership to PHL diversity. You know, we had to expand the table to be more than I cultural organization, but one that had to embrace other communities. And for us, it was adding women and LGBT. So I really had to focus on what that really meant, uh, to be, um, diverse and inclusive. And back in 2014, 2015, that was the phrase. And it just continues to evolve because in the last two years, you know, the focus is around equity and how you eliminate barriers and how you create access.

Greg DeShields: 13:06 So as a person of color, a black, African American living in the United States today, um, I have, you know, kind of traveled this journey throughout my entire life and continue to be involved with it and impacted by it as it continues, uh, to evolve throughout society. I think there’s much more focus about, uh, there being access and equity, but working our ways through it is going to be, you know, somewhat of a challenge. But I think in the past five or seven years, looking at issues of increasing diversity and, and providing a focus around inclusivity, all of those have had direct impact upon me around the type of opportunities that I’ve had. So I would definitely say that for me and the evolution of my career, the, the steps from when they began the civil rights movement to where I am today has, has impacted me quite, um, personally and professionally.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:04 Yeah. I really appreciate that reflection too, because, um, you know, all of us have a lifetime of experiences and, and when you get asked a question like this and you start to really kind of dig in and think about, yeah, I want, you know, the, this is what I have witnessed. This is how, you know, how it’s affected me and it doesn’t have to be, you know, a story of like your story I’m hearing is one of realization. Right. Kind of, I don’t know if awakening’s the right word, but, you know, as you’re going through and moving along, learning and building and understanding, and then in broadening your understanding of it. And I really appreciate how you just kind of walked us through that. I think that was extremely helpful just to kind of think about how we’re evolving. The interesting thing

Greg DeShields: 14:52 About it is that will continue to evolve. I think, as we began to see what it truly means to create access and opportunities, that will take us to other areas of how, um, DEI, you know, is, is impactful, um, upon not just my lives, but you know, everyone in that society.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:12 Absolutely. So I know our listeners are probably really wanting to know about the evolution of PHL diversity and, and just how, you know, you are approaching that as a destination. And so my next question really is, you know, about what are some of the creative solutions that you’ve seen implemented within the tourism industry. And I’m hoping that the creative solution you want to give us the example of is PHL diversity. You can walk us through a little bit about how that fits, because earlier you said that you hadn’t really fully realized the business of it and understanding the economic impact of it until you really got into the multicultural association. And then now as PHL diversity. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Greg DeShields: 16:03 You know, so our organization, PHL diversity has been around for 30 plus years. Uh, and if we go back to the earlier, um, years of why it became important to Philadelphia, you know, in the late eighties was not known as a tourist destination. Um, it had been a manufacturing town and as there was less and less manufacturing in the city of Philadelphia, uh, city leaders did look to what would be the next industry. That would be the future of the city of Philadelphia, and maybe about 60 miles away in Atlantic city. There had been that evolution of gaming and casinos and hospitality, but uniquely in that particular city, there really wasn’t an aggregation of pouch and gage the community in terms of the evolution of the industry, uh, which is why even when you look at the casinos, the casinos face the ocean, not really the city of Atlantic city.

Greg DeShields: 17:01 So there were a number of leaders here in Philadelphia who were concerned about the evolution of the hospitality industry, building a convention center and major hotels. Uh, and there were two notable. And I will say that there were certainly others without any doubt, but, um, state representative or Congressman Dwight Evans, um, led the charge in terms of how we could look at the legislative engagement around, uh, developing a focus to, um, engage diverse communities in, uh, the development of the industry. Um, he was a part of the appropriations committee at the time. So we had terrific support Wilson Goode, who was our mayor, an African American mayor of the city of Philadelphia, and the gentleman by the name of a Bruce Crawley, who was a local influencer and corporate leader. You know, they felt that it was important that if there was the development of a convention center and a hospitality industry in Philadelphia, that the local black community at that time should certainly be at the table and a part of the conversation.

Greg DeShields: 18:04 Uh, so working closely with, uh, Tomal dune, who was the president of the Philadelphia convention and visitors Bureau, uh, in Philadelphia at the time, uh, they talked about how we can look at the business case around African-American meetings and events and how they could certainly, um, be to the benefit of that community and the city in total. So there were a couple of pillars that were really involved in the very beginning, as I would say, with any destination, number one, make sure, you know, the business case that it really works. Like, you know, you don’t want to dive into this and maybe there’s not a market for it. Philadelphia had a vibrant African American community, and there were certainly opportunities to, you know, tie them to the interest of building this market. So that means what are the venues, you know, whether the places that people go to, where do they shop, where do they eat that really connects them to their community, and then do your due diligence around the volume of meetings that a certain community can bring to your city.

Greg DeShields: 19:02 So, uh, as it relates to the African American, um, segment, there were a number of meetings in addition to family reunions, not to mention the leisure travel on top of that, that made it a strong business case for it. So we also looked at the things that we needed to do here in Philadelphia. So making sure we were, then you ready, uh, engaging the small businesses, also building an effort around workforce development, that we would be key in collaborating with academic institutions to create a curriculum that would lead to the next generation of hospitality workers. And with a big emphasis around minority businesses, minority businesses are certainly have a piece of the pie. If NAACP is bringing $10 million to a city, there should be an ability for them to have access to RFPs or procurement. So that has always been a foundational component of what we’ve done at the time, which was a multicultural fairs Congress.

Greg DeShields: 19:57 And I think one of the key pieces is that you have to have community participation and involvement, and the division has always had a very engaged board advisory board. Um, so throughout the years, as we began, we focused on the African American community. We built best practices around that later, adding the Hispanic, as well as the Asian and native American communities. And it wasn’t until about 2014 as we had worked our way through, you know, both the economic impact of September 11th, as well as 2007, 2008 downturn in the economy that it began to have an impact on the volume and the configuration of multicultural meetings. And we felt that there were perhaps market segments that we were pursuing that we could expand. And that through an analysis with the Fox school of business, that we were able to a surface that the women and LGBT markets were certainly strong markets to expand the work that we were doing.

Greg DeShields: 20:53 Needless to say, we have to change our name beyond the multicultural affairs Congress, because we were no longer exclusively looking at just multicultural, although that continues to be amongst our top tier markets. But as we add at women and LGBT, we also engage them as a part of the advisory board. We did our due diligence in terms of the amount of meetings or conventions that they could bring to the city of Philadelphia. So it’s that sentence or that phrase that you hear about inviting, you know, more people to the table, uh, and bringing greater opportunity to the city of Philadelphia and continuing our commitment to ensure that the destination continues to provide a quality experience for visitors, that we are visitor ready in terms of array of experiences, whether it’s through dining retail, museums, and that we also engage our local diverse businesses, because for those diverse customers, they certainly want to engage and spend their dollars in people that look like them.

Greg DeShields: 21:54 And then our commitments to the next generation, you know, we’ve certainly bore the fruit of that. There are people who graduated or were participated in some of our educational programs back in the eighties who are nailed in supervisory or managerial level roles. So a division like PHL diversity is unique. We operate through an allocation from the Bureau’s budget, um, but the commitment by leadership of the convention and visitor’s Bureau, and we’ve had numerous presidents over the years, but they see that as a significant, um, top priority for the organization and even navigating the choppy waters up endemic as well as the downturn of the economy. The commitment remains that our focus about ensuring that there are business development divisions that can create business opportunities for our local businesses and that we can provide our customers with the best experience possible, uh, has proven to be a real success story for what we’ve done. So, uh, I know it was a little long, but that’s one of the creative ways that you could do there.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:58 Absolutely. No, it was a Nazi long at all. And, and I think these shows are much better when my guests do more of the talking than I do cause we’re here to learn from you. Um, but that was fantastic. I mean, just really appreciate how you took us through the different pillars and, and, um, I think it’s a really important point about knowing the business case as to why, you know, why you want to go down this path and then to do that due diligence around it. And I really appreciate how you’re, you know, thinking about all parts of the market talk, you talked a lot about meetings, which of course have a huge impact, but then also how that kind of trickles down or we’re into leisure travel as well. So, um, yeah, I really appreciate you taking us down that path.

Greg DeShields: 23:43 I mean, I think, I think one thing that I would also add though, is, you know, as you pursue multicultural or diverse market for leisure or meetings, I mean, you really want to ensure that if we are going down there that this does have a business case, that it is smart for us to do this, obviously there’s time and money that’s invested in it. So, you know, ensuring that you kind of analyze it and kind of rallied all the resources that you have, um, in terms of local partners and others, you know, who kind of bullets the community helps to ensure that the work that you’re doing, uh, will deliver the impact that you’re trying to achieve. So it’s just ensuring that there is a business reason behind it and it’s not just because it feels good to do it.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:29 Yeah, absolutely. And I think another really important point that you made was, um, the community participation and involvement, um, and how, you know, how deep you go with that. It’s beyond just the advisory board. I, I just really appreciated how you talked about, you know, the experience and the local diverse businesses and giving those procurement opportunities, you know, making those available to very diverse or minority owned businesses as well. So it sounds like just a lot of legwork to make sure that if you are going to, uh, commit and invest in this area, that you have, you know, the community support that you have the right type of infrastructure in place to make it work. Yes. Yeah. That’s fantastic. So I do want to ask you about your podcast because right before we went and hit record on the show, you and I were swapping stories about podcasts. Um, and I’d like to give you the opportunity to share with our audience about your podcasts. Cause I think it might be something they find interesting as well as a, as a resource for them. Cause so can you talk a little bit about the podcast and kind of how that fits into the work that you do?

Greg DeShields: 25:37 Sure. So, uh, as I joined the convention visitors Bureau in 2014, we had retired a national, uh, event that we produced, uh, that was rather expensive. Uh, and perhaps did not deliver the return on investment that, um, we should be delivering. And as we kind of stepped away from that kind of program, the question is what could we do next that would really engage, you know, our audiences, both locally and nationally, and the idea of a podcast, even as a short, uh, I guess time ago, as six years, um, was somewhat radical, but we felt if we could tell Philadelphia stories by influencers, knowledge experts on subjects, around diversity or provocative issues that really relate to their business, that we could tie that into a compelling case why people should consider to come to Philadelphia. So we mapped out, you know, folks from the C suite presidents who could talk about the unique aspects of their businesses here in Philadelphia, tying it to their favorite restaurant in Philadelphia, how their organization describes diversity and inclusion, and that consistent conversation really impacts your audience because they are having an opportunity to kind of peek into Philadelphia.

Greg DeShields: 26:58 What’s interesting about some of the planners who listen to our podcasts, they might be bringing their convention to Philadelphia in three years and they’re like, Oh wow. I remember they had the president of the Hispanic chamber and she had talked about how they love to partner. So now they actually know and have heard from a person who would do that, but we will interview a variety of different individuals. Um, we’ve had some celebrities who have been featured on our podcast. Um, we’ve had, like I said, a number of corporate leaders, uh, we interview a number of our customers, uh, so that they are able to tell their story of why they chose Philadelphia and some of the experiences that they’ve had during their convention. We’ve done some onsite podcasts, interviews of groups that have been here in Philadelphia. Um, but it allows for us to, you know, really engage in a very thoughtful conversation around issues of tourism, hospitality, organizations, diversity, the city of Philadelphia. And that has really allowed us to have a very dedicated following of listeners. Um, we’re partnered with iHeart media, which gives us the ability to get even expanded distribution. Um, but I have to tell you, I love it. I learned so much from each person that I entered. I feel so smart, even when I’m way above my head with the subject matter.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:23 Oh yes, I can. I can relate to that. Absolutely.

Greg DeShields: 28:29 That’s what, I only, I only stick to the script at that point. I tried not to.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:35 Oh, that’s great. I can absolutely relate to that. Greg

Greg DeShields: 28:38 It’s called PHL diversity podcast.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:41 Wonderful. That was my question. Terrific. So we have a new podcast to follow. So I’m looking forward to, to connecting on that. So Greg, you know, you just gave us some really great ideas on ways that the destinations can embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. And I’m curious, like when you’re thinking about the future, especially, you know, the times that we’re in now, um, where the conversation is so focused on this. Um, again, not that it hasn’t been this focus, but it just feels to me like, uh, a different point in time where, where the conversation is right now. And so I’m curious as you think about the future, um, what types of things do you think our industry should be doing or should be thinking about, um, to really create an impact here?

Greg DeShields: 29:26 Well, I think that there needs to be more of a focus around strategy and planning. Um, unfortunately there’s a lot of reaction, you know, something happens and we feel we need to do that, or we see that, you know, DEI is important. So let’s try and get something going, let’s connect with a consultant or let’s launch a campaign. I mean, there’s a lot of things that you could do that are just very reactive. And I think as an industry, certainly given that for the most part, we’ve been put on pause and we get the opportunity to do a reset and do it right. I think as we move forward, organizations should first step back and look at what’s the strategy behind it. How does this really align with the success that we envisioned for our destination, and then helps you to have a better sense of the level of investment and commitment and how you are able to strategize as to, you know, what are you doing this year versus what are you doing next year?

Greg DeShields: 30:19 You know, the key thing about, you know, moving towards, uh, being much more diverse and inclusive and how that applies to your destination is realizing that this is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. Like if you embark upon this, this needs to be what you do. Um, and that’s where, you know, conversations around authenticity and commitment come into play and that all centers upon, once again, you know, what’s the strategy behind it? Why are you doing it? If you can’t develop a strategy that has a solid business case that benefits your destination, perhaps there’s other ways that you can approach it. And maybe that’s by, you know, being more of a, you know, an advocate around it as opposed to perhaps taking the lead. But I think, uh, moving forward, it’s key. Uh, if in fact DEI is a part of how you want to position your destination, that you’ve done a fair amount of analysis and developed a strategy that can have a plan implement it, uh, for the long haul, not for the short,

Nicole Mahoney: 31:20 Absolutely again, such really, really great insight. And, um, I, I love talking about strategy and planning and so important because it is, you know, especially now I know, even for me personally, right, with all of the conversation that started happening, uh, you know, in March really shortly after the pandemic, uh, started and you find yourself just really questioning, well, what, what am I doing about this? You know, what should I be doing? And, and really looking for a way to, to, um, almost you feel like you need to react, right? And so I can really appreciate this idea of, you know, stepping back, having some reflection and really figuring out the strategy on how you want this to fit in. And

Greg DeShields: 32:06 I mean, if I, if I were to be a little bit more granular and you know, the thing that I would say is, for example, you have to define what diversity is for your destination. And unfortunately, you know, if you look at the dimensions of diversity, you know, that can be up to 12 and 15 different dimensions. And if there was a particular focus that you are committed to, there’s no problem with saying that that’s what I want to commit to. This is what we’re capable of being successful. And I think it’s also realizing having done some sort of asset assessment, like what are we able to, to deliver? You know, if we feel that amongst the dimensions of diversity, we really want to focus on the African American community. Didn’t do a great assessment because you may not be able to carry it alone.

Greg DeShields: 32:50 Are there other allies and advocates that are going to support your effort? Is there political support is a police explore. I mean, there were a number of different things that we’re going to have to support whatever you come up with. But I think that’s where the overall concept of building a strategy allows you to kind of dig deep and then you do your SWOT analysis as a part of it. So that’s where some sort of assessment of your market will give you some clarity of where you should go, but I’m realizing that it is much more deeper than just to say, let me put out a statement about black lives matter, or let me add some more diverse images to my marketing campaign. That truly is an authentic, and I think where we are today, if there’s anything people can see the difference between truly authentic destinations that embraced diversity and others that are just putting together a campaign to be, uh, along the lines of checking a box or moving forward.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:43 Absolutely. And, you know, you’re, you’re so right, because the best way to approach something as we can’t be everything to everyone, especially all at once. So having that focus and picking that focus and giving yourself permission, right. To figure out what works best for you and not feeling again, back to that reaction, you know, feeling like you have to react because, uh, because of what’s going on. So I think that’s just fabulous. So I want to touch on the topic of collaboration because in every episode I like to learn about collaboration and, um, it’s, to me, I think collaboration is just the best way to move through, you know, a challenge. And I’m wondering how collaboration might play a role with diversity equity and inclusion. And if you have any thoughts on that.

Greg DeShields: 34:34 So I would say yes, yes. And yes. And especially in light of where we are today, because everybody’s going to wind up having to do much more with less. Um, I think though, before you began a conversation around collaboration, the conversation should be much more focused around alignment and goals and shared values. Like, are we all on the same page as we go down this route and for a number of, um, organizations that might look at collaboration, unfortunately it might be because of maybe influenced, or it might be because of money that you say that this is a good partner, but in the long haul, there may be a lot of, um, you know, um, difference of opinion. So to gain as much clarity around alignment as possible will be huge, uh, to give you an example of how we collaborate collaborated. Um, I’m a member of the LGBT chamber here in Philadelphia, and they’re a great organization, but they admittedly, um, have said, listen, we don’t have a lot of diversity in board.

Greg DeShields: 35:38 Um, and you know, we certainly could be amongst those who could complain and say, you need to do better, but as an organization, we felt we needed to step up and be a participative partner, collaborate with them. So it’s some limited dollars. Uh, we invested in a plan or a program which was called intersections. Uh, and the idea was to establish it over a long haul. It’s a three year period where we build a three tiered strategy around collaboration for them to increase diversity on their board, therefore enhancing the diversity of Philadelphia and, uh, long haul, also helping to influence our ability to secure meetings and conventions. So the first year, uh, they collaborated with us to reduce, uh, get to know you reception. So we targeted the African American, Hispanic, and Asian American communities. And throughout the course of that year, and those designated funds of celebration, we did receptions to get to know you the second year we engaged in uncomfortable conversations for each one of those communities.

Greg DeShields: 36:39 We invited them to join us, to talk about some of the issues, uh, as to why perhaps they don’t feel engaged and a part of it. And then the third year, which is a year that we’re in right now, we’re doing very customized programming because you really have to begin to do programming that really resonates with your audience. So the effect for the local LGBT chamber certainly opened up many more connectivity to those diverse communities where their board, but it also increased it more diversity to their regular programming, especially their annual luncheon, which was always significantly underrepresented representative diversity. And as of the last few years, they’ve had incredible representation of diversity. And in addition, it opened up new programming that they had not considered before. That was actually programming that you could charge for. So creating new business opportunities for them. So one particular program, a collaboration with a CBB around this particular initiative to get more diversity on their board, you know, overall opened up their opportunities. I will say from a self-serving perspective, we were able to collaborate with them as a result of this project to bring the national, um, gay, lesbian, um, chamber of commerce convention NGLCC to Philadelphia. And at that conference, uh, the local IBA actually won an award for, uh, that program as one of the most creative collaborations that they had saw with one of their chambers. So, but I strongly, um, recommend it, but I think at the beginning of it, there has to be a clear alignment of priorities and values.

Nicole Mahoney: 38:12 Absolutely fantastic. Another great, great example. And Greg, you and I could, I’m sure I could continue asking you all kinds of questions and we can talk for hours probably and learn so much more, but I do want to be respectful of your time. And, uh, I am so happy for the opportunity to talk to talk with you today. And just wondering if you have any final thoughts that we haven’t covered or anything else that you’d like to leave our listeners with.

Greg DeShields: 38:39 So I would say that, you know, as I mentioned earlier, um, you know, diversity equity and inclusion is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. So realize that if you embark upon this, this is long haul. It’s not short game, but more importantly, I’d want to emphasize that this is a profession. There are thought leaders, knowledge, experts, professionals in the space. So what I would strongly state as a closing thought is, you know, don’t just try and do it because you think, you know, diversity. Um, I, uh, went through the credentialing process to become a certified diversity executive so that I had a more comprehensive understanding of this, a deeper understanding of this and a well grounded perspective of it. And I think that, um, I would encourage people not to just randomly pursue it because of a Google search. Um, there are knowledge experts who have a deep understanding of all of the inner secrecies associated with DEI and the actual body of knowledge associated with it, uh, which can help you in terms of execution and also base you at a sense of reality, uh, realizing that there are nuances of this that most will not even pursue, but are relevant to overall successful outcomes.

Greg DeShields: 39:54 So I just under underscore, this is a profession, it’s not something that you do, and I would encourage you however you to pursue it, to connect with a knowledge expert who can give you the insight and the guidance that’s necessary for you to be successful

Nicole Mahoney: 40:09 Testing. Thank you so much. And, and, um, could you just share also with our listeners where they might connect with you if they wanted to reach out and make that connection?

Greg DeShields: 40:19 Sure. So you can reach me at PHL diversity. And my email address is

Nicole Mahoney: 40:29 Awesome. Thank you so much, Greg. It’s been great having you and I will look forward to connecting again. Awesome. Thank you. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to tell you about our influencer ebook that gives you the inside. Look at how my agency break the ice media implements influencer marketing for our tourism clients. The book goes into detail on all of the tools that we use to find that niche manage and measure influencers. You’ll find information on key follower, benchmarks, how to vet influencer channels, getting your destination partners on board, creating itineraries, managing influencer expectations and measuring for ROI. Visit break the ice forward slash influencers to download the full ebook that’s break the ice forward slash influencers.

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