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Tourism Foundations Join Forces for Power of Partnership Summit

RICHMOND, Virginia — Two hundred tourism professionals and community development leaders gathered in Richmond, Virginia, October 16–18, for the inaugural Power of Partnership Stewardship Summit. The summit was a cooperative initiative of four tourism industry nonprofits: the Cultural Heritage Economic Alliance, Tourism Cares, the Travel Foundation and the U.S. Cultural and Heritage Marketing Council.

The purpose of the summit was to gather industry experts to discuss issues surrounding community, culture and climate in tourism.

“Cultural heritage, community tourism and climate action go hand in hand,” said Stephanie Jones, founder of the Cultural Heritage Economic Alliance and the driving force behind the coalition of organizations hosting the event. “We’re all talking about the same things, but we’ve been doing it in silos. So we wanted to invite the industry to come together to have some bold conversations. We want to come together and learn from each other.”

The event featured more than 50 speakers, many sitting on discussion panels or giving masterclasses across three days of intensive learning sessions. Topics ranged from discussions on regenerative tourism — a concept that involves travelers making pro-social investments in the communities they visit — to climate concerns and ways to amplify cultural heritage of underrepresented groups during travel experiences.

As part of the focus on cultural heritage, the conference featured a marketplace of 24 city tour operators and other suppliers from diverse backgrounds.

“It was important for us to use this opportunity to integrate smaller suppliers from diverse communities into the tourism ecosystem,” Jones said. “We want you to become more knowledgeable about small suppliers that offer diverse tourism experiences across the U.S.”

In addition to the keynotes, breakout sessions and masterclasses, the summit featured several networking hours in which tour operators, travel agents and other professionals held appointments with the suppliers in attendance. These networking breaks also featured artistic moments from cultural heritage organizations in Richmond, including African dance and music by members of the Elegba Folklore Society and a performance by the Latin Ballet of Virginia. An evening networking reception featured a live painting demonstration by celebrated Richmond mural artist Hamilton Glass.

On the final afternoon of the conference, attendees wrapped up the classroom sessions and broke into small groups for volunteering and cultural tours at sites throughout Richmond. Glass led a walking tour through the Jackson Ward neighborhood to showcase Mending Walls, a mural program he and other artists undertook in 2020. Other groups toured significant Black history sites around the city and participated in service projects at Sankofa Community Orchard.

The excursions helped attendees connect with parts of the community that many tourists miss, creating the sorts of opportunities for meaningful travel experiences that have become a key area of focus for Tourism Cares.

“We like to say that all tourism is community tourism,” said Tourism Cares CEO Greg Takehara. “This summit allows people to go beyond the traditional definition of community tourism to realize what community is all about.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.