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ESF to Host Travel Unity Summit, Explore “Cultivating Welcoming Communities

Diversity inclusion conference explores ways to create welcoming communities

Finding new ways for the tourism and hospitality industry to proactively attract new visitors from diverse populations will be the focus of the fifth annual Travel Unity Summit, set for Oct. 5-7 at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

ESF has partnered with Travel Unity, a nonprofit organization with a mission to increase diversity and inclusion in both the travel industry and the traveling public, to present the summit at the college's Gateway Center in Syracuse, NY.

With additional support from Visit Syracuse, the Greater Syracuse Hospitality & Tourism Association, Visit Rochester, the New York State Division of Tourism (I LOVE NY), New York State Tourism Industry Association (NYSTIA), New York State Canal Corporation and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Travel Unity Summit announced "Cultivating Welcoming Communities" as the summit's guiding theme.

"Travel is a universal experience introducing us to new places, new people and new ideas. As hosts, we should strive to attract and welcome all travelers from all walks of life. As travelers, we should embrace the opportunity to meet, see and learn about all aspects of any community we visit," said Dr. David Amberg, ESF interim president.

"ESF is excited to host the Travel Unity Summit because we are committed to building community on our campus, building community in our city, and building community in the places across the world where ESF works," said Amberg.

The three-day summit will feature guided discussions around how changes to city infrastructure can create tourism opportunities, and the importance of education, arts, culture and nature in attracting the attention of visitors. Also, a plenary will address how to market authentically to diverse groups and how organizations can actively use corporate social responsibility campaigns for both marketing and the greater good.

More specifically:

* Saturday, Oct. 5 will be devoted to advancing and honoring local communities through tourism, seen through the lens of local and regional issues. The first topic will be how neighborhood communities along Syracuse's I-81 corridor can leverage tourism for economic development. The second will investigate how tourism sites can be (re)built while honoring and respecting local concerns, using the example of development on Onondaga Lake and balancing it against the needs and concerns of native groups.

* Sunday, Oct. 6 centers on how academic institutions and the communities that support them can better attract people from a variety of backgrounds and give them a supportive community no matter how long they are in the area.

* Monday, Oct. 7 brings together local, state and regional voices to push the travel industry toward more inclusive practices.

"All of this is designed to examine how, as the demographics of Upstate New York continue to shift, the entire state can benefit from the boon of tourism," said Roni Weiss, executive director of Travel Unity. "By bringing these conversations to different parts of the state, our summits are not only able to lead discussions about the economic impact of tourism, but bring in new voices who have traditionally been excluded or ignored. We were therefore quite honored by the invitation to hold this year's event in Syracuse at the main ESF campus. We have found the Syracuse community to be very open to the discussions that we will be bringing to the area and are quite excited to continue the progress that we have had in bridging urban/rural and urban/urban divides."

This year's summit builds on the success of the 2018 Travel Unity Summit, held in the Adirondacks, that focused on economic development through diversity and was supported by state entities including New York State's Division of Tourism (I LOVE NY), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, as well as regional and local organizations.