The Ontario Government has dubbed this year the Year of the Ontario Staycation. On February 23rd from 11 am to 12 pm, tourism and hospitality professionals across South East Ontario will be collaborating for a virtual event exploring Anti-Racism in rural areas.
The hour-long event will be hosted by grassroots tourism group Let’s Get Uncomfortable and RTO 9, a regional tourism organization funded by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport representing businesses in Prince Edward County, Kingston, the Bay of Quinte, Lennox & Addington and Frontenac County, Rideau Canal, 1000 Islands Gananoque, Brockville, and Cornwall & SDG Counties.
LGU’s Shalene Dudley, co-founder of anti-racism travel consultancy UNPACK and founder of Latitude Concierge Travels, and Saiqa Sheikh, co-owner of JERKebago and founder of Diverse Roots Rural Ontario, will lead conversations about anti-racism that challenge participants to think critically about their role in building an equitable hospitality & tourism sector.
“The tourism and hospitality sectors of South Eastern Ontario, by nature, represent the identity, the challenges, and most importantly, the heart of their communities,” said Dudley. “With that in mind, these industries must also play a leadership role when it comes to helping those communities evolve into stronger, safer and healthier places for people to live, work and visit.”
The Anti-Racism: Let’s Get Uncomfortable is free to attend and open to all travel professionals and will feature a 15-minute Q&A session at the end of the event that will invite further dialogue from participants.
Topics of discussion will include the realities of racism BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) hospitality & tourism business owners face in South Eastern Ontario, structural shortcomings that prevent the advancement of BIPOC-owned businesses and steps non-BIPOC business owners and organizations can take to be anti-racist in practice, as employers, colleagues, and service providers in their region.
“This Anti-Racism event will shed light on the systemic challenges being faced by Black, Indigenous, People of Colour in tourism and hospitality, and explore what can be done to enact lasting, a crucial change in the industry,” said Dudley. “When a destination is made up of communities who work alongside each other and support each other, it also becomes a place that people want to experience for themselves.”
“More and more folks are looking for a change of pace outside of city centres, especially after the 2020 pandemic,” said Sheikh, whose family moved to Prince Edward County from Toronto five years ago, and after feeling nostalgic for familiar sights, sounds and scents, they created JERKebago, authentic, smoked, charcoal grilled, fall off the bone jerk chicken, to promote culture, diversity and spice of life in the Bay of Quinte region.
“One of the greatest deterrents for us as a BIPOC family considering a move out here was working through and understanding that rural spaces of Ontario are white-dominated, and these spaces are unfamiliar with and are not designed with BIPOC in mind,” said Sheikh. “We wanted to be the representation we did not see and make rural Ontario feel inclusive and accessible for BIPOC visitors and those contemplating a city-to-country transition.”
The Anti-Racism: Let’s Get Uncomfortable event is free to attend and open to all travel professionals. Participants can register online at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/anti-racism-lets-get-uncomfortable-tickets-136818053481?aff=efbeventtix&fbclid=IwAR18oZjgY1MKbsiAqe37CNVatApRQvvM7xq-dNehUF8lR7G5Ch_jqpqgSgM.
Those interested in submitting questions in advance can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via an anonymous form online at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeEM1nIfBlgMj6l3FpnVLRxGRyvTPRZcwXJkib6w_j3gDo87Q/viewform