As a traveler of color, I approve this message. As a tourism marketing effort, it's a smart one ahead of what's predicted to be a busier and more competitive summer than last year's. Way to go, Boston — and look out New York City.
Be honest. Those of you who are familiar with Boston’s reputation for being racist — ranked in 2017 as the most unwelcoming city to Black people — likely scoffed when the first phase of the “All Inclusive Boston” campaign launched in 2021. Boston as a city that’s eager to receive visitors of all races isn’t exactly an easy story to sell.
But it appears the initial effort to push for representation wasn’t temporary, nor a marketing gimmick. The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (Greater Boston CVB) in collaboration with Collette Phillips Communications and Proverb Agency, is back with a second phase of the “All Inclusive Boston” campaign — and it’s another bold step to change the city’s narrative.
The video tackles the Boston accent and redefines it through diverse residents from all walks of life who state, “This is my Boston accent,” including in foreign languages and in sign language.
“This campaign is about driving tourists and residents alike of the Commonwealth from downtown Boston to our neighborhoods, particularly for under-visited and underrepresented businesses and to say Boston, you don’t have to just do the seaport or Fanueil Hall,” said Collette Phillips, CEO of Collette Philipps Communications, in a news interview. “You can go Roxbury, Dorchester, Roslindale is Boston and really enjoy the food, the people and the culture and the vibrancy of the unique diversity that are now Boston’s neighborhoods.”
Martha Sheridan, CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that the idea is definitely to take people off the traditional path. “It’s about showcasing the diversity of our city, but it’s also about attracting a more diverse visitor to Boston as well.”
Last year the campaign drew 4,000 tourists to the city in spite of a major Covid surge, according to the Greater Boston CVB.
Backed by Boston’s first female mayor and first non-white mayor, Michelle Wu, this $1.5 million round two of the campaign will run nationwide and also aims to attract diverse talent to work and live in Boston.
Getting visitors to see Boston with new eyes isn’t easy, but it does come at a propitious time when travelers of color are increasingly visiting places that are more welcoming to them and where they see themselves represented.
It also comes ahead of what’s predicted to be the busiest summer of travel since the start of the pandemic, and at a time when neighboring New York City, which usually steals the show, has faced an ongoing wave of anti-Asian hate crimes and violence.
“The perceptions we’re trying to overcome and reintroduce are going to take some time, but ultimately what we think we’ll end up with is a city that is much more competitive as a tourist destination and ultimately will help to support a much more vibrant economy,” said Daren Bascome, managing director at marketing and branding agency Proverb, at the campaign launch.
Beyond the fun messaging, the financing and backing of the project also sends a powerful message of commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as the single largest non-construction contract that the City of Boston has given to a minority-owned company, as well as 84 percent of the contractors and sub-contractors involved in the effort representing women-owned businesses, or businesses owned by people of color.
Throw in the diversity of the leadership collaborating to drive this shift — from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu to Collette Phillips, Daren Bascome, and ally Martha Sheridan at the head of the Boston CVB — and it’s becoming clearer that Boston’s bold DEI push is anything but a fleeting moment.
Photo credit: The second phase of Greater Boston CVB's All Inclusive Boston campaign has launched. Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau / Greater Boston CVB