By: Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Maribel Velazquez has an extensive background in the hospitality industry, specifically with destination marketing organizations (DMO’s). A native of Puerto Rico, she received a B.A. in Tourism and started her career at the Caribe Hilton Hotel & Casino and later at the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau – San Juan office. She then moved to Washington, D.C. and pursued a master’s degree in Business Administration at The George Washington University. While in graduate school, she worked part-time at a D.C.-area hotel and upon graduation, she returned to work for the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau (now Meet Puerto Rico) in its Washington, D.C. sales office.
Maribel has lived in the D.C. area for 30 years and, during this time, she has also worked with Visit San Antonio and Visit Denver. She has currently been working with Visit Phoenix for 13 years and is a member of IAEE, PCMA and AMPs (Association of Meeting Professionals), where she has held leadership positions in the recent past. Maribel lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband. She has a 20-year-old son who is currently attending Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. She enjoys reading, cooking and traveling back home to Puerto Rico.
Here, Maribel shares with IAEE her 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?
Maribel: It is a great opportunity to bring this important topic to the forefront of our industry and work on initiatives that will have a positive, long-term impact to help minorities and/or under-represented segments of our society.
IAEE: What has been your experience/observations with how the industry addresses DE&I?
Maribel: I believe our industry is ready and committed to make long overdue changes. It is exciting to see all the major industry organizations addressing this issue “head-on” by establishing committees and task forces, and offering educational opportunities at both the chapter and national level. DMO’s are also making great strides to showcase the importance of DE&I for their destinations. My own DMO has established a DE&I employee committee, as well as one at the Board level. Corporate America, as well as non-profits and other organizations, are also working on addressing the issue. Systemic change is definitely underway!
IAEE: What overall advances would you like to see in the industry regarding DE&I?
Maribel: Opportunities for advancement to C-suite level positions, broadening the composition of boards of directors and attracting people of diverse backgrounds at the college level.
IAEE: How do you think that companies can help advance DE&I?
Maribel: Companies need to conduct a self-evaluation and find out where they really stand on this issue. Then, lay out a plan to address it. It may take some time, but real change starts from within!
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?
Maribel: To get involved with DE&I initiatives whether it is within their own organization and/or industry organizations. Take advantage of the many workshops and educational opportunities available, become a mentor, and have open and honest conversations to continue to move the issue forward. Embrace DE&I as an opportunity to better our communities and society, as a whole. The long-term goal should be that this conversation will no longer be needed in the future, as we would just look at people for the value they bring as an individual and who they are.
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.