Last month, I had the opportunity to be part of an unprecedented gathering of multigenerational Black leaders. We all got together for the inaugural Equity Through Economics, Education and Equality Leadership Conclave at the Salamander Washington DC hotel.
The conference was organized for Future of Black Tourism by Stephanie Jones, founder and CEO of the Cultural Heritage Economic Alliance and Blacks in Travel & Tourism; Naledi Khabo, CEO of the Africa Tourism Association; and Martinique Lewis, president and co-founder of the Black Travel Alliance.
Together, this coalition of leaders and entrepreneurs has been working to build a sustainable global tourism ecosystem for Black people in travel, tourism and hospitality to advance and thrive through wealth and value creation.
The 25 industry leaders who attended believe that a collective voice is critical for underrepresented groups to achieve broader representation and equitable opportunities. By presenting a unified mission -- and showing up in significant numbers -- we believe we can better advocate and influence public policy for federal resources to support economic development and sustainability for Black businesses and organizations in travel and tourism.
Power sessions and panels focused on leadership and organizational development, mental health, advocacy, public policy, ecosystem building, strategic partnerships and wealth and value creation.
Brand USA was present, as were government officials from the National Travel and Tourism Office and the Minority Business Development Agency. The speakers were inspiring as well as informative. Among them were Prem Devadas, president of Salamander Hotels & Resorts; Belize ambassador-at-large Attallah Shabazz, the eldest daughter of Malcolm X; U.S. Travel CEO Geoff Freeman; Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel's executive vice president of public affairs and policy; Darryl Walls, Minds Leadership Consulting; and Le'Kiesha French, founder and CEO of Preneurology Global.
The event was hosted in partnership with the Cultural Heritage Economic Alliance and Salamander, and sponsors included U.S. Travel, Brand USA, Destination DC, South African Tourism and the Black Travel Alliance. Destination DC hosted an opening dinner, and South African Tourism hosted a dinner at the South African Embassy for conclave leaders.
The conference left me feeling inspired, motivated and ready to roll up my sleeves along with the other Black industry leaders in attendance to work together to create equitable opportunities for Black businesses, so they can actively participate and profit in the global travel and tourism industry. If my experience was typical, we all left feeling empowered and in agreement that when we work together, we all will win!
Nadia "Sparkle" Henry is owner of Travel With Sparkle, an award-winning lifestyle travel agency that specializes in luxury and international group travel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.