By Mary Tucker, Sr. Communications & Content Manager
IAEE DE&I Committee Member Sonia Fong, MBA is the Senior Vice President of Convention Development for Louisville Tourism. Her responsibilities include managing the convention sales team to achieve annual room night goals, developing and implementing the convention sales and marketing plan, outlining specific sales objectives and priorities for the convention sales staff, and establishing sales policies and procedures to maximize Louisville as a convention destination.
Prior to going to the Louisville Bureau, she was Vice President of Convention Sales & Services for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, serving in a variety of sales positions and overseeing its Washington, D.C. regional sales office during her 21-year tenure. Sonia started her career working for Marriott Hotels. She has her Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management and her MBA from Florida International University, and is active in various industry organizations including MPI, PCMA, IAEE, ASAE, and SISO. She is currently completing her CDME.
Here, Sonia shares her perspective on how the exhibitions and events industry has made headway with DE&I and where industry members can contribute to achieving greater results.
What inspired you to serve on the IAEE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Committee?
IAEE is a well-respected global organization. I wanted to be a part of a group made up of individuals that are true believers of DE&I and are dedicated to carry on the mission. It’s a privilege to be part of this committee and be able to voice my beliefs as well as collectively take actions to improve areas needed. We have a lot of work ahead of us and I look forward to making valuable contributions.
What has been your experience/observations with how the industry addresses DE&I?
I applaud our industry, as many have stepped up and intentionally made DE&I a priority. I have noticed many industry foundations and chairmen’s platforms have DE&I focused programming. For example, Mr. Al Hutchinson, current chairman of Destinations International (DI) is championing a fundraiser to support African American students pursuing a career in hospitality management. Also, under the leadership of Louisville Tourism, a group of professionals formed the Black Tourism Advisory Council (BTAC) to help advance black businesses and encourage black visitors. We are also active in the LGBTQ community and welcome all visitors.
What overall advances would you like to see in the industry regarding DE&I?
I would like to continue seeing advancements in the DE&I for leadership roles, career advancements, equality in salaries and board seat opportunities.
How do you think that companies can help advance DE&I?
DE&I should be part of companies’ strategic goal. Make it part of the company’s DNA and culture by offering advancement opportunities and leadership roles to employees, and helping their community by providing resources. Set goals and a timeline.
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?
A great start would be getting involved in your own community. Also, be engaged and volunteer with industry organizations like IAEE, DI, MPI, PCMA, ASAE, and other organizations that have a strong focus on DE&I initiatives.