#PullUpForTravel Campaign Case Study


Destination Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Case Study Prepared by Rick Wilson, VP of Human Resources

Q1. Situation/Opportunity: What was the situation or opportunity?

In response to the call to dismantle systemic and structural racism, Destination Cleveland is deeply committed to do more with greater intention to make our community stronger. It is essential that we make diversity, equity, and inclusion part of our DNA and part of how we operate to advance tourism and Cleveland’s reputation as a destination city.

Destination Cleveland - Wade Oval Wade Lagoon© Wil Lindsey

As part of the country’s awakening to the effects of institutional racism, Destination Cleveland acknowledged its role in unintentionally perpetuating systemic racism through its work to change perceptions of Cleveland, attract people to Cleveland & enhance experiences in Cleveland. As part of that acknowledgment, the organization co-authored and co-signed The Cleveland Pledge, a community statement on racism as a public health crisis, and vow to have actions speak louder than words in all efforts to make meaningful change in the Cleveland community.

Activity: What specifically did your organization do?

To make initial, tangible progress to represent more proportionally diverse communities – especially people of color – in all we do, the organization took several immediate actions beginning in June 2020, including:

  • Launched Racial Equity Board Task Force: Organized and launched a Board of Directors Racial Equity Taskforce to develop a roadmap with actions and KPIs to be undertaken by Destination Cleveland.
  • Benchmarked with Black Travel Alliance #PullUpForTravel Scorecard: Reported benchmark data related to representation, engagement with, and involvement of Black Americans in Destination Cleveland’s work.
  • Created Leadership-level HR Role: Hired a dedicated HR leader with relevant and deep-rooted strategic diversity, equity & inclusion experience.
  • Enhanced Employee Recruiting: Employed enhanced recruiting practices to ensure diverse and inclusive candidate pools, including outreach to applicable industry, business and professional organizations.
  • Joined D&I industry Coalitions: Joined CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion coalition and signed Destinations International’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion CEO Pledge, both actions signifying Destination Cleveland’s commitment to being held accountable for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion internally and externally.
  • Enhanced POC Storytelling: Enhanced promotion and amplification of POC-owned businesses and stories in ongoing marketing efforts including the Eat & Explore CLE initiative, in which more than 60% of the featured local businesses were minority-owned.
  • Hosted local racial equity convening & listening sessions: Listened, through a series of virtual meetings, to understand how Destination Cleveland is perceived in the Black & Latinx community, gain insights into how best to amplify the historical contributions of Black and Latinx Clevelanders and the impact of Black- and Latinx-owned hospitality businesses.
  • Conducted additional primary and secondary research: To supplement the learnings from the convening and listening sessions, Destination Cleveland gathered insights from additional commissioned research and secondary sources. All learnings were synthesized to develop the organization’s initial roadmap.
Cleveland Murals by Cody York Photography
Cleveland Murals by Cody York Photography

Result: What was the result? Provide a summary and any data points to support the success of the project.

As a result of the Taskforce’s work, Destination Cleveland launched in August 2021 its Racial Equity & Inclusion Roadmap, a set of initial pragmatic actions to ensure our work equitably, inclusively and intentionally grows the travel and tourism industry, improves Cleveland’s narrative and enhances visitors’ experiences. Each action has clear staff accountabilities and timelines, and progress will be reviewed quarterly by the Board of Directors. Key performance indicators (KPIs) will be publicly reported annually.

Destination Cleveland’s Racial Equity & Inclusion Roadmap is organized into three areas that align with the organization’s mission and focus. The actions outlined were determined by Destination Cleveland’s Racial Equity & Inclusion Board Taskforce as part of a process rooted in listening and discovery, which Destination Cleveland is committed to continuing to enrich our work.

The actions the organization will take are outlined in the response to question 4.

Initial response to the roadmap has been positive, including direct comments to staff at and following the organization’s annual meeting where the Roadmap was launched.

Brite winter © Nathan Migal
Brite winter © Nathan Migal

Q2. Does your organization have plans to launch any new diversity initiatives during the next 12 months, specifically focused on increasing Black representation in the travel industry?


Please describe the new diversity initiatives your organization plans to take during the next 12 months.

During the next 12 months Destination Cleveland will begin to implement the actions outlined in its Racial Equity & Inclusion Roadmap. This will include direct work by its staff as well as collaborations with public and private civic partner to ensure we’re leveraging the expertise of partner organizations and bringing meaningful programming to the community.

Attract People + Improve Perceptions:

  • Evolve the Cleveland brand to be inclusive so as to attract a more diverse visitor audience to Cleveland and create consideration for living and working in the region; to be launched in Q4 2021.
  • Collaborate with community leaders to identify and pursue meetings and conventions that attract POC communities to Cleveland; underway and ongoing.
  • Connect Cleveland’s inspirational Black history and immigrant stories to the future, progress, and brand of Cleveland; to be launched first half of 2022.
  • Ensure the destination storytelling is reflective of Cleveland’s POC communities; underway and ongoing.
  • Collaborate with Cleveland’s economic development ecosystem to develop a centralized database of POC hospitality businesses; underway and ongoing.
  • Collaborate with Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Cleveland’s community development ecosystem to define distinctive neighborhood brand identities that allow for clear brand promotion for each neighborhood; to kick-off in Q3 2021.
Wade Oval Wednesday Brite winter © Nathan Migal
Wade Oval Wednesday Brite winter © Nathan Migal

Enhance Experiences + Collaborations:

  • Create a POC visitor experience advisory committee that collaborates to develop, enhance and package immersive experiences that reflect Cleveland’s POC experience; to be launched by Q1 2022.
  • Collaborate with POC-owned hospitality businesses to identify opportunities for capacity building and greater exposure, awareness, and access to Cleveland’s travel & tourism economy; to be launched in Q4 2021.
  • Enhance Destination Cleveland staff’s understanding of and connections within Cleveland’s neighborhoods through site visits that will take place in Q3 2021.
  • Develop new, enhanced and collaborative programming to educate and engage Cleveland’s hospitality businesses to strengthen Cleveland as a diverse, equitable, and inclusive destination; to be launched by Q2 2022.
  • Collaborate with Downtown Cleveland Alliance to develop a strategy that measurably increases POC-owned hospitality businesses in Downtown Cleveland; to be launched in 2022.
Destination Cleveland Neighborhood street art - © Wil Lindsey
Destination Cleveland Neighborhood street art – © Wil Lindsey

Organizational Foundation & Operations:

  • Establish a DEI strategy that includes foundational steps for staff and Board of Directors to listen, understand, learn and act; to be launched in Q4 2021
  • Enhance the employee talent lifecycle to attract, retain and promote POC employees; underway and ongoing.
  • Work with Destination Cleveland Board of Directors Governance and Nominating Committee to increase the number of POC directors on Board; underway and ongoing.
  • Increase the number of POC-owned vendors doing business with Destination Cleveland (supplier diversity); underway and ongoing.
  • Work to increase DC’s representation on committees, workgroups, and boards of organizations devoted to diversity, equity and inclusion, and related social reform; to begin in 2022
  • Modify Destination Cleveland’s mission to explicitly include diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential elements of the organization’s economic development, marketing, and destination management efforts; to be completed as part of the 2022 strategic planning process.
  • Commit to always disaggregating data by race to better understand visitors, meeting attendees, businesses, and vendors; to be implemented beginning in Q3 2021.
Destination Cleveland Dancers - Destination Cleveland Neighborhood street art - © Wil Lindsey
Destination Cleveland Dancers – Destination Cleveland Neighborhood street art – © Wil Lindsey
Copy link