5th Annual Travel Unity Summit

October 5-7, 2019

Syracuse, NY

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Gateway Center

“Cultivating Welcoming Communities”


(Applications due by June 30, 2019)

Saturday, October 5th

Morning: Sessions around topics vital to tourism and inclusion for Syracuse and Central New York at SUNY ESF

Afternoon: Experiences and further discussions in the surrounding region

Evening: Welcoming Gathering

Sunday, October 6th

Workshops and discussions, including:

  • Expanding hiring pipelines to bring in diverse candidates
  • How academia and community partners can foster welcoming communities

Monday, October 7th

  • Flash Talks from Travel Unity, ESF, and governmental and private industry voices

  • Cultivating Welcoming Destinations Panel

  • Communication/Marketing Roundtables

  • Corporate Social Responsibility Roundtables

2019 Partners and Sponsors

Quotes from last year’s Summit

“We are excited to have the Travel Unity Summit in the region. Any time the area can facilitate conversations about diversity and accessibility it benefits all our destinations. We look forward to this conference being the beginning of a continued conversation.”

Kristy Kennedy

Director of Tourism, North Country Chamber of Commerce and Adirondack Coast VCB

ROOST sees the Travel Unity Summit as an opportunity to learn, grow,
and connect with individuals and organizations in the travel industry
who understand the value of a diverse, inclusive Adirondacks. Our
organization believes that diverse communities are strong communities,
and we think the summit will engage local businesses, officials, and
community members in a way that challenges and informs them to not
only continue ongoing conversations about inclusion, but also to spark
new conversations on how to attract a broader range of travelers to
our region.”

2018 Summit sponsors and partners included:

Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance

About Travel Unity

Travel Unity is a 501(c)(3) organization focused on increasing diversity in the travel space.

  • We connect community groups and individuals with travel, cultural, and educational experiences to promote personal and professional growth.
  • We work with organizations in the travel industry to broaden their diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts.
  • We collaborate with destinations on solutions to welcome people of various backgrounds and abilities.

Please check out this document for further information.


About Travel Unity Summit

The Travel Unity Summit began as a component of the New York Travel Festival, focusing on issues of diversity and inclusion in the world of travel.

Past Summits have included events in collaboration with The New York Times, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, and New York University. Past topics have highlighted issues pertaining to African-American travelers and travelers with disabilities, how tourism can benefit all of New York City (not just pockets), and how to market to diverse groups.

2018 brought the Summit out of NYC for the first time, taking place in the Adirondacks.


Last year’s program

Saturday, October 27, 2018

10:00 AM – 5:30 PM

Why to attend Saturday’s sessions and workshops:

1) You are interested in attracting new business to your destination/attraction.

2) You would like to be ready when new markets arrive.


Plenary Schedule


9:00am – 9:30am


9:30am – 10:00am Inclusive Hospitality with Farah Bala
10:00am – 11:00am Flash Talks by Travel Unity, I Love NY, Adirondack Diversity Initative, and NYSTIA
11:00am – 11:30am Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion Case Studies
11:30am – 12:00pm Break
12:00pm – 1:15pm D&I in the Travel and the Outdoors: the Adirondacks, New York State, and Beyond
1:15pm – 2:30pm LUNCH


9:30am – 10:00am

Inclusive Hospitality with Farah Bala

Intercultural leadership and communications specialist, Farah Bala, will start the day off with an engaging session around how to create community in the 21st century.

10:00am – 11:00am

Flash Talks by Travel Unity, I Love NY, Adirondack Diversity Initative, and NYSTIA

Join us for brief talks by Travel Unity’s Executive Director, Roni Weiss, I Love NY’s Director of International Marketing, Markly Wilson, Pete Nelson of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, and Bob Provost of NYSTIA.

11:00am – 11:30am

Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion Case Studies

Cordell Reaves of NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will share key insights, followed by crucial demographic data from Jan Vink of Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, then marketing case studies from Romey Louangvilay.

12:00pm – 1:15pm

D&I in the Travel and the Outdoors: the Adirondacks, New York State, and Beyond

A frank discussion on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the travel industry and the outdoors with Laura DiBetta, Director of Outdoor Recreation at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Shaun Kittle of ROOST, Bob Provost of NYSTIA, and Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center.

Moderated by the day’s host, Farah Bala.

2:30-5:30 PM

Afternoon Breakouts

Welcoming New Markets Marketing to New Audiences
2:30pm – 3:30pm Creating a More Welcoming & Inclusive Adirondacks through Arts & Culture New Markets, New Approaches
3:30pm – 4:30pm Attracting a Diverse Community via Eco-Tourism Enticing Niche Media
4:30pm – 5:30pm Creating the Case: Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Planning Empathetic Marketing

Welcoming New Markets

feat. Adirondack Diversity Solutions (Dr. Donathan Brown and Cindy Rodriguez)

2:30-3:30 PM

Creating a More Welcoming & Inclusive Adirondacks

Playing a large role in attracting both foreign and domestic tourists to the region, the arts, culture, and philanthropic community continues to exist as the cultural anchor of the Adirondacks. Witnessing a growing and more diverse clientele, regional leaders in this area will discuss their observations, innovations, and strategies they employ to create a more welcoming and inclusive Adirondacks.

3:30-4:30 PM

Attracting a Diverse Community via Ecotourism & Conservation

The regional research on tourism continues to illustrate the sheer strength of the regions outdoor recreational industry. However, drawing criticism from observers who argue that conservation groups, and the outdoor recreational industry suffers from cultural narrowcasting, especially in its marketing campaigns, board members, and front-facing employees, regional leaders will discuss their innovations, and strategies they employ to attract a more diverse community by way of eco-tourism and conservation.

4:30-5:30 PM

Creating the Case: Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Planning

In this panel on diversity and inclusion strategic planning, Dr. Donathan Brown and Cindy Rodriguez of Adirondack Diversity Solutions, will discuss and partake in activities pertaining to expanding, cultivating, and ultimately diversifying your organizations workforce, leadership, board members, and clients.  

Marketing to New Audiences

2:30-3:30 PM

New Markets, New Approaches

This interactive panel will bring in state and regional voices to share how to attract a variety of new markets, from international to accessibility to millennials, and more.

3:30-4:30 PM

Enticing Niche Media

Jeannette Ceja and Ernest White II – TV hosts, writers, and content producers –  will share their secrets on how to get their attention, so you can get their audiences’ attention, too.


4:30-5:30 PM

Empathetic Marketing

There is no substitute for truly knowing your customers (and potential customers). Farah Bala, Romey Louangvilay, and Kelly Leigh Metzgar will lead a discussion on how to get in your (potential) audiences’ shoes to know what drives their purchase decisions.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Why to attend Sunday’s sessions:

1) You want to learn more about how diversity can help the Adirondacks – both its nature and its people.

2) You believe in embracing cultural differences and hearing more about how Adirondack institutions pursue that mission.

Sunday-only tickets are free – they do *not* include admission to Saturday’s sessions in Lake Placid.

Click here to register for Sunday’s sessions at The Wild Center.


9:00am – 10:00am
Breakfast and Networking
10:00am – 11:00am
An Adirondack Welcome
11:00am – 12:00pm
The Intersection of Sustainability and Diversity
12:00pm – 1:00pm
The Path to ‘Knowing’: Cultural Exchange in the Adirondacks
1:00pm – 2:00pm
Town Hall with Staff Member from the Office of NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

An Adirondack Welcome

While the Adirondacks unquestioningly are home to many people who didn’t start out here, there is certainly more that can be done to actively encourage a wider range of people to join the Adirondack community. This panel, with ANCA, along with other thought leaders and local institutions, will cover this vital topic.


Moderated by Ellen Rocco, Station Manager of North Country Public Radio.


11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

The Intersection of Sustainability and Diversity

With over 6 million acres, it’s clear why the Adirondacks needs to care for its natural resources. This panel, along with audience questions, will delve into how diversity and sustainability are intrinsically connected.


12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

The Path to ‘Knowing’: Cultural Exchange in the Adirondacks

Join Six Nations Indian Museum, The Wild Center, and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Tourism Working Group to learn about recent approaches Native and non-Native organizations have come together to collaboratively work on travel and tourism development. The partners will share information relating to ongoing travel and tourism initiatives centered around cultural exchange. This effort highlights organizations that have come together to recognize and support the voice of a traditionally underrepresented population. After the session concludes, join presenters for a tour of the new “We Are All Related” Art and the Ways of Knowing exhibitions at The Wild Center.

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Town Hall with Staff Member from the Office of NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones

A staff member from the Office of New York State Assemblyman Billy Jones will discuss current initiatives around bringing in new business/residents to the Adirondacks and hear the thoughts of district constituents.