By: Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Cleo Battle, CTA is Chief Operating Officer of Louisville Tourism. He has worked in the hospitality industry for 34 years. Prior to coming to Louisville, he spent 12 years as Vice President of Sales & Services of the Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau in Richmond, Virginia. He also held the positions of Director of Sales and Sales Manager at the Richmond CVB.
Cleo began his hospitality career in the hotel industry working for Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn and Sheraton Hotels. A Denver, Colorado native, he graduated from Metropolitan State University in Denver with a bachelor’s degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management. He earned his Masters of Business Administration in 1997 from Averett University in Virginia and is both a Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) and Certified Association Sales Executive (CASE).
In addition to serving on the IAEE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Cleo currently serves on the Meeting Planners International Board of Directors, Kentucky Derby Museum Board of Directors, Louisville Sports Commission Executive Board, Louisville Zoo Foundation Board, and as a board member for Northeast YMCA of Louisville. He has chaired the Destination & Travel Foundation, Destination International Sales & Services Committee, and Virginia State University Hospitality Department Advisory Board.
Here, Cleo shares with IAEE his vision for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) within the exhibitions and events industry.
IAEE: What inspired you to serve on the IAEE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee?
Cleo: I am interested in contributing to our industry becoming more diverse, inclusive and equitable. I would like to play a part in developing DE&I programs with long-term measures and goals.
IAEE: What has been your experience/observations with how the industry addresses DE&I?
Cleo: Many of the industry associations have diversity and inclusion committees, and while well-intended, they all need measurable metrics which are often times missing to move the ball down the field.
IAEE: What overall advances would you like to see in the industry regarding DE&I?
Cleo: DE&I audits need to be conducted within organizations to address practices regarding diversity in hiring, employee education, and ways to work with a more inclusive variety of vendors and diversity representation in marketing collateral. Additionally, I would like to see more people of color in other C-suite positions in the hospitality industry.
IAEE: How do you think that companies can help advance DE&I?
Cleo: Provide and participate in DE&I training for leadership and staff, as well as create internship programs to help facilitate more minorities engaging with the hospitality industry on the ground floor with the organization. If applicable, create a diversity advisory council from your community to give specific recommendations and feedback. Craft a mission statement that addresses equality in the workplace and incorporate DE&I into strategic marketing plans.
IAEE: What suggestions do you have for individuals who would like to learn more about and/or help increase awareness and advances in DE&I within the industry?
Cleo: Volunteer for boards and committees to learn more and have your voice heard. Engage your family, friends, and social networks with honest conversations about DE&I.
IAEE’s goal is to engage as many members as possible who are willing share their experience to our community on the importance of DE&I. If you have a story to tell, please email Karen Gonzales, CMP, and we will spotlight your experience.