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Forward Focus: Greg DeShields talks about how to make hospitality an accessible industry

November 9, 2020 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose
“It’s imperative that everyone experiences a Philadelphia that is welcoming and accepting to all. We know that together we will persevere, with both hope and love, in making not only our organization but this city, a more equitable place for all.”

Greg DeShields currently serves as the Executive Director at PHLDiversity Multicultural Affairs Congress a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), adjunct instructor for Temple University School of Tourism and Hospitality and Hospitality Educators. DeShields’s board membership and committee chairs include: American Hotel & Lodging Association Multicultural & Diversity Advisory Council, COMHAR Inc. (Philadelphia) Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Independent Business Alliance (Philadelphia), Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center, Responsible Hospitality Institute-National Board and SKAL International (Philadelphia). His interests include cars, travel, and most importantly cooking.

Generocity: Generocity’s ADVANCE focuses on “advancing” both your mission and your career. What are the benefits of hearing from other organizations in the Philadelphia social impact sector? How have professional development experiences helped you deliver on funding goals for your organization?

DeShields: I recently received my Certified Diversity Executive (CDE), for innovative and strategic leaders to advance equity and inclusion, as well as the concept of diversity of thought.  Professional development was a path to enhance my learning to secure professional credentials, providing a deeper understanding of my ability to make a difference and have a positive impact upon society.

Generocity: 2020’s economic turmoil has significantly impacted, largely in a negative way, the livelihood of our socially-driven organizations. Has your organization found any creative ways to preserve budget, raise donations, or acquire new funding?

DeShields: As a good community partner, we collaborate on projects of shared values, identifying potential challenges which allow us to make a difference and provide solutions. We leverage feasible resources to build a better city to welcome visitors. COVID-19 has left destinations with unprecedented challenges and Philadelphia is no exception, PHLCVB has reduced expenses and focused on maintaining Philadelphia’s visibility and preparedness as the industry moves toward the road to recovery.

From our Partners

In response to COVID-19, PHLCVB created the PHL Health Pledge. This initiative aims to ensure a safe return to travel and safe meetings by aligning expertise and guidance from the PHLCVB’s Chief Health Advisor and the PHL Health Advisors to establish best practices for reopening.

Generocity: In July, Generocity launched TRACE (Toward Response and Community Equity) a year-long initiative tracking Philadelphia’s response to a pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism. In the midst of COVID-19, how has your organization adapted to meet the changing needs of your stakeholders? What do you hope to learn at ADVANCE that will help you better serve our community?

DeShields: At PHLCVB, we stand with our staff, customers, members, visitors, and partners of color and remain committed allies and advocates in the fight for equity.  It’s imperative that everyone experiences a Philadelphia that is welcoming and accepting to all. We know that together we will persevere, with both hope and love, in making not only our organization but this city, a more equitable place for all.

Generocity: Our nation is currently grappling with the many ways systemic racism infiltrates our society: it affects our policing system, our education system, housing, health care, and more. Through your work, how do you advocate for racial equity? How can ADVANCE help you create a more diverse, inclusive, equitable organization?

DeShields: At PHLCVB we are committed to ensuring that equality and inclusion are pillars of our destination and we commit to leveraging our strong community connections and our PHL Diversity division to ensure that the economic benefits of tourism extend to all diverse communities in Philadelphia. PHL Diversity maximizes opportunities for the region by promoting Philadelphia as an ethnically diverse visitor destination. By encouraging multicultural business and social responsibility, PHL Diversity helps the city’s varying multicultural communities’ benefit from the hospitality and tourism industries.

PHL Diversity maintains an ethnically diverse membership that represents an array of Philadelphia’s corporate, government, and social communities. PHL Diversity has worked with key industry figures to help increase the presence of multicultural leaders in the industry. Events like its annual Hospitality Education Day help high school and adult students receive training and information directly from people working in the hospitality industry. Annual Seminars provide information on multicultural marketing and help create business opportunities for PHL Diversity members. PHL Diversity also supports community organizations and networking events that highlight partnerships, membership initiatives and educational programs.

Generocity: During these physically isolating times, innovative technology has become increasingly important. How has your organization used technology to solve the unique challenges posed by COVID-19? What has helped you, your team members, and your stakeholders stay connected?

DeShields: We issue a weekly staff newsletter, conduct regularly scheduled board, leadership, staff and team meetings via Zoom. Zoom conference calls provide easy-to-use video communications that empower us to accomplish more. It also allows our team to log in to the same call from wherever we are, maintain the essential need for remote teams to conduct their daily tasks, receive company updates and connection.


DeShields is part our Forward Focus series, a series of stories highlighting the experiences and work of nonprofit leaders in Philadelphia. The goal of the series is two-fold: 1) to provide insight on shared challenges in the social impact sector and 2) to help nonprofit professionals get the most of Generocity’s virtual ADVANCE conference on Nov. 12.

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