Dan Williams, vice president of sales for Experience Columbus, can’t tell you what percentage of events the Ohio city hosts are multicultural or how much money they generate. That’s not because he is lazy or doesn’t care. It’s quite the opposite. Under Williams, the CVB has chosen not to delegate certain salespeople to groups fitting under the diversity banner to ensure the staff sells to all organizations. Having attracted the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference and Expo, Southern Baptist Convention and Gay Softball World Series, as well as National Urban League’s 2018 conference, Columbus has proven it can accommodate a diverse set of groups. Here, Williams speaks out about the growing importance of diversity in meetings.
What has made diversity a hot topic?
From my standpoint, it was going to all these shows and meetings, and there were not a ton of people who looked like me. Race relations in this country have brought it to the forefront. It is what it is. Right now, racism is a huge topic.
Where is the industry on the issue?
We’re making progress but are still a ways off. Early education is important. We have a phenomenal industry that provides a lot of opportunities. You don’t have to work in a hotel or a bureau. You can be a planner or a chef. There’s an IT component, an HR component. I don’t think we have done the best job of going outside of our wheelhouses to hire people.