Tourism Diversity Matters Launches To Inspire And Create Change For Tourism And Events Industry



Collective Impact Approach Commits to Eliminating Disparities Through Advocacy and Education; ConferenceDirect Foundation, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), and

SearchWide Global Among Founding Partners




PAUL, MN — Elliott Ferguson, Chairman of the Board for Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) and President and CEO, Destination DC, and Mike Gamble, TDM’s Founder and President and CEO of SearchWide Global today announced the collective impact model to inspire authenticity and inclusive leadership throughout the tourism and events industry. TDM’s mission is 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.


Founding partners include ConferenceDirect Foundation, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), and SearchWide Global.


Ferguson, one of the few Black leaders in destination marketing has been a long-time advocate for repairing diversity deficiencies and misrepresentations in the corporate environment.


“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.”


TDM’s four guiding pillars include Apprenticeship Programs; Workforce Development; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and Research and Data. The goal is to sustain and expand the platform by collaborating with associated organizations and industries and notable research institutions to develop impactful solutions for all involved.


“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 respected leader on behalf of DEI and regarded for initiatives to raise Philadelphia’s image as a multicultural visitor destination, has been named Executive Director. In addition to this new leadership role, he will continue to lead PHL Diversity, a division of PHLCVB.



The inaugural Board of Directors includes:


  • 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, Events Industry Council (EIC)
  • Gregg Caren, President and CEO, PHLCVB
  • Mark Cooper, CEO, International Association of Conference Centers (IACC); Chairman, Events Industry Council (EIC)
  • Melissa Cherry, COO, Destinations International
  • Roger Dow, President and CEO, US Travel Association
  • Christine Duffy, President, Carnival Cruise Line
  • Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO, Destination DC
  • 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


“Tourism Diversity Matters offers the opportunity to reset and heal from a year filled with the most challenging moments in modern history,” said Carrie Freeman Parsons. “I am honored to be part of this important collaboration moving all toward an inclusive environment with equitable access and participation.”


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

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Editor’s Note: Headshots available upon request


Media Contact:

Meghan Risch

R4 Communications Strategies, Inc.




About Tourism Diversity Matters

Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) is a 501 C (6) founded as the collaborative leader of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and concepts that can address the blind spots of ethnic disparities and provide decision-makers in the tourism industry access, resources, and tactics to develop more effective Diversity & Inclusion strategies that will engage and retain a diverse workforce. At TDM, we focus on four primary pillars of activity to benefit the Tourism Industry: Apprenticeships, Workforce Development, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Research and Data. TDM’s goal is to sustain and expand our platform by affiliating with fellow industry partners and notable research institutions, creating solutions that can be implemented, contributing to organizational success. Follow TDM @TDM_Matters on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.