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Black tourism leaders work to overcome diversity issues

Diverse management significant issue, tourism operator says
Posted at 6:41 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 18:50:39-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla.  — The coronavirus pandemic continues to cripple the tourism industry as a whole.

In addition to those struggles, Black tourism leaders say they are fighting two battles — COVD-19 and racial disparities in the industry.

WPTV spoke with one of the only black tourism operators in Florida about her struggles for inclusion.

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Business was good last year for Stephanie Jones, who is the founder of Cultural Heritage Alliance Tours.

She spent most of her days on the road connecting people with cultural experiences throughout South Florida. One year later, a global pandemic halted her operation.

Stephanie Jones
Stephanie Jones is working to improve diversity in the Florida tourism industry after her business stopped conducting tours in Palm Beach County because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"As we see the rise in COVID-19 cases here in Florida, we are not expected to resume tours before the fall," said Jones.

In the meantime, Jones has shifted her focus in hopes of mending what she calls a devastating disparity in the tourism industry.

"The travel and tourism industry has not been a very diverse industry period," said Jones.

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She said one of the most significant issues is a lack of diverse management within destination marketing organizations.

"I serve on the small business and rural development council of Visit Florida. I may be the only black person that's on that council of about 30 representatives across the state," said Jones.

The National Black Travel and Tourism Ecosystem Collaborative is launching a job board on their website in hopes of diversifying the industry.

"We need to make sure we have the white CEOs in those corporations, and those corporations that are in power, and employ us to make sure that they understand the importance of this conversation continuing. So, it’s a step in the right direction but arguably it’s probably never going to be enough until we see changes," said Elliot Washington, the president/CEO, Destination DC and Chair, U.S. Travel Association.