Louisville Tourism, the marketing agency that promotes the city as a travel destination, is unveiling several initiatives to assess and improve racial and minority imbalances – both inside and outside the organization.
For several years, Louisville Tourism has been actively curating the city’s rich, cultural assets that reflect Louisville’s African American Heritage with a plan in mind to build an ongoing promotional campaign. Designed with immersive experiences in mind, these plans call for new leisure tourism outreach programming using local attraction partners to highlight Muhammad Ali Tourism and the African American influence within the bourbon and horse racing industries. Developed over the past year, these experiences are a result of collaborations and partnerships with the National Civil Rights Trail, Black Bourbon Society, Kentucky Department of Tourism and the African American Travel Conference. Louisville Tourism is striving towards a fall marketing launch.
To help shape these programs, Louisville Tourism is also developing a Black Tourism Advisory Council led by Cleo Battle, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Much like the panel that was formed to help guide LGBTQ tourism initiatives, Louisville Tourism will be inviting members of the community to join the ongoing conversation about intentional inclusivity in the hospitality industry. Representatives from all major hospitality industry sectors will participate. The committee is being curated currently and the first meeting will be centered around addressing systemic racism to improve Louisville’s hospitality organizations and overall destination experience for visitors and residents.
Battle recently participated in a video alongside seven other Black executives from destination marketing organizations across the country to share their experiences and encourage an open dialogue about race and racism throughout their lives and in the tourism industry. Running 8 minutes and 38 seconds, “5 Questions About Race” takes less time to view than the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that George Floyd had a knee on his neck when he was murdered on May 25, 2020.
“As a Black professional who has worked hard to be in a position of leadership in my industry, I have experienced and seen my share of racial inequality,” said Cleo Battle, COO, Louisville Tourism. “The time is now to make changes in our industry for the future and I proudly join my colleagues in helping to lead the conversation forward.”
Looking inward, Louisville Tourism will review and address organizational culture by conducting a thorough review of practices regarding diversity in hiring, employee education, as well as developing ways to work with a more inclusive variety of vendors. Additionally, the agency will scrutinize the destination’s diversity representation in both printed and digital destination marketing collateral. To gain impartial input, Louisville Tourism will hire an outside firm to conduct an audit.
New educational opportunities for Louisville Tourism staff will be provided through Decide Diversity. This working relationship will give staff access to a variety of leaders from across the country regarding diversity, equity and inclusion - as well as research, training and resources. Staff will receive updates centered around increasing diversity and improving inclusionary behaviors. Louisville Tourism and Decide Diversity will maintain an ongoing partnership with additional workshops planned for the future.
In addition, Louisville Tourism will bring awareness and change to the hospitality industry by extending these same opportunities beyond staff to encourage industry partners to participate in the Decide Diversity series. The goal is to increase cultural awareness and knowledge centered around diversity and sensitivity, ensuring all who interact with Louisville’s hospitality industry – both employees and guests - are respected and treated appropriately.
Said Karen Williams, President & CEO of Louisville Tourism, “While the changes needed to bring about sustained racial equity and justice are a national concern, the hospitality industry in Louisville both supports and wants to be a catalyst for this ongoing process. Travel and tourism has long been a vital tool in helping change perceptions and bring people together. Our city’s economic health demands that the spirit of hospitality Louisville offers is to and for everyone.”