Journey to a Mission Statement
"Change is good—you go first."
It's a line that Dawnielle Tehama says is too often the prevailing sentiment regarding organizations catching up with shifts in public values. But when Tehama, executive director of the Willamette Valley (Oregon) Visitors Association, and 11 other NTA members assembled as the association's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Group, they not only embraced change ... they ran with it.
NTA launched its DEI Advisory Group in early 2021, pulling together a broad cross-section of the membership: representatives from tour companies, tour suppliers and destinations who volunteered to serve.
The purpose of the group is to advise the association's staff and leaders in three areas, said NTA President Catherine Prather: "The main goals are cultivating a culture of inclusion, expanding the diversity of the NTA membership, and providing opportunities for deeper learning about DEI so it can be integrated into the packaged travel landscape."
In September 2021, the group recommended to the NTA Board of Directors that NTA sign on to the Travel Industry Association DEI Pledge, which has been championed by Travel Unity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in the world of travel. The board agreed to sign on, and they further charged the DEI Advisory Group with using the guiding principles of the pledge to review NTA's mission statement and operating principles and recommend updates.
To help the DEI Advisory Group with the work, Prather enlisted the help of Roni Weiss, executive director of Travel Unity, who explained to the group the reason for updating the association's operating principles.
"By having clarity on an organization's mission and values, you can better make sure that everything you do links to that mission—and you're better able to retain the members who align with that vision and find others who share that philosophy," Weiss said.
In monthly meetings, the DEI group worked to uphold the ideals and business focus of NTA while also reviewing NTA's principles through a lens of diversity, equity and inclusion. Once the group was satisfied with the revised mission statement, they tackled the association's core values. In October 2022, the DEI Advisory Group recommended the operating principles to the NTA Board. It's viewable here.
Tehama is especially invested in the belief statement about the communities that travelers visit, and she suggests that tourism professionals take a deeper dive.
"We need to be better advocates for those voices that are the soul of the destination, ensuring that community stakeholders understand, prioritize and support the value of the industry and can collaborate on ways to truly become more inclusive," she said.
The DEI group was satisfied with its work, but how did the NTA Board of Directors view the outcome? It was approved unanimously.
Although they achieved their goal, the DEI Advisory Group is not resting on its accomplishment. Codifying the mission and values of NTA leads to seeing that those principles are upheld—with intent and consistency—in all aspects of the association's actions, practices and policies.
"This is no longer solely the DEI group's responsibility," Prather said. "It's now NTA's work."
Change is good—you go first.
NTA, through its DEI Advisory Group, certainly wasn't the first organization to set forth principles that honor diversity, equity and inclusion. But now that the group has stepped forward, they all agree that the change is good.
Bob Rouse is editor and vice president of NTA. For more information, go to NTAonline.com.
Courtesy of NTA.
Photo Courtesy of Normand Huberdeau.