52 minutes | Oct 14th 2020

Episode 201: The Racial Conversation in Travel and Tourism, with Melissa Cherry and John Percy

Melissa Cherry serves as the Chief Operating Officer at Destinations International. She is responsible for the development and execution of the overall marketing and communications, product engagement, information technology, meetings, and education strategies to promote and elevate the Association’s mission and brand to drive awareness of its impact to advance the success of the destination marketing industry worldwide.

Prior to joining Destinations International, Melissa was senior vice-president for marketing and cultural tourism at Choose Chicago. During her four-year tenure at the city’s official destination marketing organization, she led Choose Chicago’s domestic and international marketing strategies, including all efforts for brand strategy, integrated marketing, research, advertising, official publications and collateral, website, social media, and event marketing. Additionally, she launched the first-ever Cultural Tourism Strategy to increase visitation and awareness to Chicago’s cultural entities, events, and neighborhoods.

John Percy is President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA. It is the official Tourism Promotion Agency and a full-service Destination Marketing Organization serving Niagara Falls and Niagara County, New York/USA. Previously, John served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the organization. Other prior experience includes Vice President of Tourism for the Niagara Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau and 15 years in shopping center marketing and management in both Western New York and Detroit, Michigan.

In addition to serving as Vice Chairman for the Board of Governors for the American Bus Association Foundation and on the Board of Directors for ABA’s actual association, John also serves as the current Chair-elect on the Destinations International Foundation Board of Trustees. He also serves on boards for the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce, Niagara Falls Community Mission, and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.

John is also a co-chair of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion task force for Destinations International, a task force that Melissa Cherry oversees in her role.

Destination on the Left is joined by Melissa Cherry, COO at Destinations International, and John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagra USA, to discuss America’s racial unrest. The conversation about equity, diversity, and inclusion can be uncomfortable to have, but it is needed in every aspect of our lives right now. On our podcast, Melissa and John share their personal stories about how they have been impacted by bias. The racial conversation is both a challenge and an opportunity, and there is so much we can do right now to make sure this moment in time does not pass us by.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:
  • Melissa and John’s journeys into travel and tourism
  • How equity, diversity, and inclusion manifest in the travel and tourism industry today
  • Melissa and John’s personal experience with racial bias
  • Why the conversation about race is both a challenge and an opportunity
  • How we can use creativity and collaboration to tackle prejudice in travel and tourism
  • Why Destination International’s DEI Committee was created and how it has evolved
  • What we can do NOW to make an impact on racial inequality in the U.S.
Systemic Prejudice in Travel and Tourism

Destination on the Left is joined by Melissa Cherry, COO at Destinations International, and John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagra USA, to discuss America’s racial unrest. The conversation about equity, diversity, and inclusion can be uncomfortable to have, but it is needed in every aspect of our lives right now. On our podcast, Melissa and John share their personal stories about how they have been impacted by bias. The racial conversation is both a challenge and an opportunity, and there is so much we can do right now to make sure this moment in time does not pass us by.

Coming Together As One

As the conversation about race is amplified, there is a new sense of urgency and a light at the tunnel. But while there are many opportunities for addressing the issue of race, there are a lot of challenges. Through Melissa and John—a woman of color and a gay, white man—their personal stories show how real systemic prejudice and bias is here in the U.S. It is something that we can’t ignore any longer, and by coming together as one force of creative problem solvers, we can tackle this adversity in our industry once and for all.

The Racial Conversation

Right now, there are a lot more conversations about race and they are easier to have. But only a couple of years ago, we still had to convince people to be a part of the conversation at all. The best thing we can do as a collective is to show empathy and facilitate open discussions about the realities we don’t truly understand. What do our organizations look like? What do our communities look like? Those are the questions we need to be asking ourselves in order to properly direct our problem-solving skills and make a difference.

Episode Transcript

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