Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2023

ConferenceDirect Bolsters Industry-Wide DEI Push

A new initiative designed to inspire authentic and inclusive leadership for the tourism and events industries has just launched — and ConferenceDirect is helping to take the lead. CEO Brian Stevens has been named to the inaugural board of directors of the Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) initiative, which is spearheaded by TDM Chairman of the Board Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, and TDM Founder Mike Gamble, president and CEO of SearchWide Global. The ConferenceDirect Foundation also is a founding partner, along with the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHILCVB) and SearchWide Global.

TDM’s mission? To be a resource to foster diversity, equity and inclusion practices that will educate, advocate, engage and empower in collaboration and cooperation with all industry initiatives.

“Tourism Diversity Matters has the making of an impactful organization on an important issue of this time,” said Stevens. “I’m glad myself and ConferenceDirect will play a role in supporting the organization as it moves forward with it’s important work”

The four main pillars of the new TDM platform are apprenticeship programs; workforce development; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and research and data.

“Addressing racism should impact how you lead – it’s an American issue,” said Ferguson. “As many are confronting these issues for the first time, we can’t turn a blind eye and we can’t turn back. The pandemic has forced us to slow down and focus on being human. We need to be comfortable with uncomfortable conversations and having these discussions not only at home, but also in the workplace.”

“Tourism Diversity Matters is a dedicated resource focused solely on creating long-term solutions through complete industry engagement and participation,” said Gamble. “The intention is to not replace existing good work happening in this area, but rather to shine a light on it, and add value and insight where needed.”

Greg DeShields, CDE, CHE, a leader in the area of DEI who has worked to raise Philadelphia’s image as a multicultural visitor destination, has been named Executive Director. He also will continue to lead PHL Diversity, a division of PHLCVB.

The full inaugural board of directors includes:

  • Dr. Brandi Baldwin, CEO, Millennial Ventures Holdings
  • Debra Blair, Director of Organizational Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Temple University School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management
  • Ray Bloom, Chairman, IMEX
  • Cathy Breden, CAE, CMP, CEM, EVP & COO, International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE); Chair-Elect, Events Industry Council (EIC)
  • Amy Calvert, CEO, EIC
  • Gregg Caren, President and CEO, PHLCVB
  • Mark Cooper, CEO, International Association of Conference Centers (IACC); Chairman, EIC
  • Melissa Cherry, COO, Destinations International
  • Roger Dow, President and CEO, US Travel Association
  • Christine Duffy, President, Carnival Cruise Line
  • Mike Gamble, President and CEO, SearchWide Global
  • Al Hutchinson, President and CEO, Visit Baltimore
  • Sherrif Karamat, President and CEO, PCMA
  • Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE, CQIA, President and CEO, Association Forum
  • Brad Mayne, President and CEO, International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM)
  • Lynette Montoya, President and CEO, Latino Hotel Association
  • Carrie Freeman Parsons, Chair, Freeman
  • Leah Smiley, President, Society for Diversity, Inc.
  • Brian Stevens, CEO, ConferenceDirect
  • Paul M. VanDeventer, President and CEO, Meeting Professionals International (MPI)
  • Telesa Via, VP, Sales, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
  • Carl Winston, Director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, San Diego State University

For more information about TDM’s mission and how the industry can be involved, please visit Tourism Diversity Matters.


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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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