The right rhetoric and people in brochure photos used to suffice for a good diversity marketing effort by destinations and other industry suppliers, but no more. Today, marketing initiatives that define brands as welcoming and equipped to host varied population segments must be not only authentic, but diverse themselves.

Destinations, hotels and other industry suppliers who are winning business from people of varied ethnicities, age, religion, sexual orientations, gender identities and travel styles are getting into the trenches with organizations that represent those they are trying to reach. They are also devoting significant resources to staff cultural understanding and sensitivity training and mentoring of individuals who are tasked with carrying out diverse marketing initiatives.

Training and Mentoring Keys

Monica Robinson, executive director of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and an experienced destination marketer and event planner, says training that promotes the understanding of varied cultures is a key component of effective diversity marketing. And so is the mentoring of individuals tasked with diversity outreach.

To illustrate her point, Robinson recalled a person who was working as a hotel valet parking attendant in the medium-sized city where she was attached to the local CVB staff.

"The hotel general manager liked this person and decided to promote him to a diversity sales position. But the man didn't get much training of any kind,” she says. “Because he was very personable and realized he needed to learn some things, he was able to align himself with people who could train and mentor him, but it took him far longer than it should have because he had to seek out his own training. This was an insult to the person and the industry."

Some larger cities are going at diversity marketing in effective ways, she adds, but others haven't ramped up.

"Some larger cities get the business impact that various groups can make, but we need to bring smaller cities along," Robinson contends.

One city that leads in the diversity marketing arena, she points out, is Philadelphia.